Whooper swan

Whooper Swan

©Danny Green/2020VISION

Whooper Swan

©Danny Green/2020VISION

Whooper swan

Scientific name: Cygnus cygnus
The whooper swan is a very rare breeding bird in the UK, but has much larger populations that spend winter here after a long journey from Iceland. It has more yellow on its yellow-and-black bill than the Bewick's Swan.

Species information


Length: 1.5m
Wingspan: 2.3m
Weight: 9.3kg
Average lifespan: 9 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

October to March


Whooper swans spend their winters in this country; they arrive from Iceland in late autumn, returning north again in the spring. They will often feed on fields during the day, eating crops like leftover potatoes and grain, before heading to roost on open water.

How to identify

Larger than the bewick's swan, the whooper swan has more yellow and on its bill. It has white plumage and the characteristic long neck of a swan.


A few pairs nest in Scotland, but most nest in Iceland and winter in the north of the UK and East Anglia.

Did you know?

In the spring, whooper swans will fly, non-stop, from Scotland to Iceland. During this migration, they travel at very high altitudes; indeed, a pilot flying at 8,000 feet once reported seeing a flock of swans that were thought to be whoopers.

How people can help

If you're feeding swans then they love eating things like sweetcorn, lettuce, oats and seeds. Bread is not so good!