The Diverse World of UK Birds

To celebrate the Year of the Bird, each week we’ll highlight the amazing diversity of UK birdlife with a bird of the week. Its call sounds like an excited dog and it journeys from Siberia – meet the Berwick's swan.

By Kieren Puffett
photographs by
Published 8 Jan 2018, 09:16 GMT
Berwick's swans
Berwick's swans have unique yellow and black beak patterns that can help identify each swan.
Photograph by

Two species of swan come to the UK each winter: whooper swans migrate from Iceland and Bewick’s swans make the journey from Siberia. Bewick’s swans arrive in the UK in mid-October and are the smallest swans to visit Britain. 7,000 Bewick’s swans spend the winter here in our comparatively warm climate, before departing in March.

Adult Bewick’s swans are white all over and young birds are grey with a pinkish bill. Bewick's have yellow and black beaks and studies have shown that these yellow and black beak patterns are unique to each swan and can be used to them tell apart. Their call is reminiscent of an excited dog.

In the UK, Bewick's swans feed in fields on leftover potatoes and grain. On their breeding grounds they eat aquatic plants and grass.

Did you know?

Berwick's swans come to the UK each winter from Siberia.
Photograph by

Bewick’s swans are named after the illustrator Thomas Bewick who died in 1828 and produced many fine drawings of this species during his lifetime.

Bewick’s swans are found mainly in eastern England, around the Severn estuary and in Lancashire. The Ouse and Nene Washes (Cambridgeshire), Martin Mere (Lancashire) and Slimbridge (Gloucestershire) are good places to see Bewick’s swans.

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