Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus   [Ord, 1815]

Jump to: Other Names Trends & Distribution Breeding & Survival Biometrics Books & Links

For details point at or click the button; for sources point at the button

Date created: 23-January-2017

Order: Anseriformes Family: Anatidae
BTO Codes: BS, BEWSW EURING No: 1530
Number in Britain: 7000 birds (Winter)
Conservation Status:
European: Endangered (winter pop)
Global: Least Concern (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Winter Migrant
Subspecies: bewickii (W), columbianus (V) recorded in Britain (of 2 subsp. in the world)
Length: 121 cm Wingspan: 196 cm Weight: M: 6.4 kg   F: 5.3 kg    
Scientific name from: L.: cygnus=the swan (from Gr.: kuknos) and after the Columbia river (western US)
World Distribution: BREEDS: tundra in n Eurasia & n North America, WINTERS: south to c Europe & Japan, s Canada & US
Habitat: Lakes, ponds & rivers, also estuaries on migration
Diet: Plant material (e.g. tubers, shoots, leaves) in water or flooded pasture
TitBit: One Bewick's Swan was counted to have 25,216 feathers, its dense feathering providing excellent insulation, and the pattern of yellow on the bill can be used to identify individuals.  
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos BTO ID Workshop

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: No population trend available
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore   
British Population Size:
    Winter: 7000 individuals in 2005
    First Record: 1829 [Fossil evidence from Middle Pleistocene, c. 500,000 yr ago]
    Conservation Status: AMBER because Recent Breeding Population Decline (1981-2007), Recent Winter Population Decline (1981-2007), Recent Breeding Range Decline (1981-2010), Recent Winter Range Decline (1981-2010), Important Non-breeding Population
   Previous Assessments: 2009-2014 AMBER     2002-2007 AMBER     1996-2001 AMBER  
   Races of Concern: bewickii AMBER (European Concern)
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    No habitat data from BBS
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries  and summary map from Time to Fly (in pop-up windows)
European Population Size:
    Summer: Unavailable
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: WCA(I), WBD(I), Bern(III), Bonn(II), AEWA, NERC (41)
Survey Results: Text from the Waterbird Review Series

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 107 x 68 mm Egg Weight: 280.0 g (of which 12 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 0
Clutch Size: 3 - 5 eggs
Incubation: 29- 30 days   by the: Female
Fledging: 40 - 45days as: Precocial, downy
First Clutches Laid: Does not breed in Britain, or too few Nest Records
Number of Broods: 1
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.822       
Juvenile Survival: 0.660 (to age 2 )  
Age at First Breeding: 4 years Typical Lifespan: 9 years
Maximum Age from Ringing: 28 years 1 months 27 days (set in 2011)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: M*
Wing Length Adult: 508.7 ± 20.6 Range 483 - 549 mm, N =53
Juvenile: Insufficient Data
Male: 518.7 ± 21.0 485 - 549 mm, N =22
Female: 497.3 ± 13.8 473 - 518 mm, N =24
Weight Adult: 5.89 ± 0.78 Range 4.60 - 7.40 kg , N =56
Juvenile: Insufficient Data
Male: 6.27 ± 0.83 5.00 - 7.40 kg , N =22
Female: 5.67 ± 0.63 4.60 - 6.40 kg , N =24
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Tundra/Whistling Swan
Gaelic: Eala-bheag Welsh: Alarch Bewick
Danish: Pibesvane Dutch: Kleine zwaan
Finnish: Pikkujoutsen French: Cygne de Bewick
German: Zwergschwan Hungarian: Kis hattyú
Icelandic: Dvergsvanur Irish: Eala Bewick
Italian: Cigno minore Norwegian: Dvergsvane
Polish: Labedz maly Portuguese: Cisne-de-Bewick
Spanish: Cisne chico Swedish: Mindre sångsvan

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Rees, E. 2006 Bewick's Swan Poyser, London [598.484 REE]
   Rees, E. et al. 1997 BWP Update 1:63-74
   Kear, J 2005 Ducks, geese and swans Oxford University Press [598.48 KEA]
Links from
See Also:
Google Scholar search for scientific papers
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides
All About Birds (from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)