The Bewick’s Swan has a white plumage with a black beak which has a truncated yellow area at its base. Legs and feet are black. The female (Pen) is similar to the male (Cob). This Swan resembles the Whooper Swan although the yellow extends further down the beak on the Whooper Swan. The Bewick’s is the smallest of all the northern swans.
It takes a good eye to tell the difference between Bewick’s swans and whooper swans. Bewick’s are smaller and their black beaks sport a small yellow blob, rather than the whooper’s extended yellow wedge. In fact these yellow and black beak patterns have been extensively studied and illustrated over the years and are unique to each swan, identifying individual birds.
They breed in the cold Arctic tundra of northern Russia. The western population winters in northern Europe, with the British Isles boasting some sizable and surprisingly musical flocks. The eastern population heads towards China and Japan for the winter season. They are actually a subspecies of the tundra swan and the smallest swan in Europe.
The whistling swan, the American race of the Tundra Swan, currently is considered the same species as the Eurasian race. They were considered separate species in the past however, distinguished by the large yellow patches on the face of the Bewick’s swan.
Size: – Typical Adult is 45-55 inches.
Food: – Mainly aquatic plants, leaves, roots stems, but will also graze on grasses, and grain. They will also eat animal matter such as insect larvae and similar.
Habitat: – Lakes, marshes, estuaries in the tundra region of north Russia and Siberia. Winters in China, Japan, UK, and northern Europe. The Tundra Swan stays in flocks except when on a breeding territory in northern Russia.
Breeding Season: – Early May further south, late May to June further north. Although most swans spread out to breed, a large proportion of the population on the breeding grounds still can be found in flocks. These swans are not breeding, and may be young birds that have not yet bred, adult pairs whose breeding attempts failed, or adults that bred in the past but for some reason do not in that year. Nest a large open bowl, made of grasses, sedges, lichens, and moss, lined with only a little down. Usually placed on mound or ridge in tundra.
Eggs: – 3 to 5 (creamy white color).
Notes: – The Bewick’s and the Whistling Swan are known as Tundra Swans. During the breeding season the Tundra Swan sleeps almost entirely on land, but in the winter it sleeps more often on water.