Spending the winter in Scotland can be a family affair for whooper swans. Mum, Dad and however many youngsters have survived from the year’s brood often stay together, making an impressive sight as they fly over fields and lochs anywhere from Shetland to the Solway.
What to look for
The whooper has a longer neck than the mute swan. Its bill is yellow and black (the mute’s is orange-red and black) and fairly straight in profile. Whoopers are noisy, often bugling with a ‘whooping’ sound that gives them their name.
Probably all the whooper swans that winter in Scotland come from Iceland. The bill markings of adults are distinctive. As with the rarer Bewick’s swan, you could learn to recognise individuals by the precise pattern of yellow and black of their bills.
When and where to see
Some whoopers arrive in Scotland in early September. The bulk come from late September to November. Almost all return to Iceland by late April.
For more information see the whooper swan page on the RSPB website.