Bewick's Swan

Bewick's Swan

Key facts

Scientific name: Cygnus columbianus bewickii

Status: Winter visitor

Wintering birds: 7,000 birds

Conservation status: Amber

Family: Ducks, geese & swans

Length: 115 – 140 cm

Wingspan: 167 – 225 cm

Weight: 4.5 – 8.4 kg (M) 4.3 – 7.8 kg (F) 


Adult Bewick’s swans have white plumage. They have black facial skin, and their bills are yellow with a black tip with a dull red gape. They have dark brown eyes and their legs and webbed feet are black.

Females look the same as males but are smaller.

Juvenile Bewick’s swans have grey-brown heads and necks. Their bills are pink with a black nail and their eyes are surrounded by a white eye-ring. They have dull pink legs and feet.


Bewick’s swans breed in late May and June. They nest in a large mound of plant matter, such as sedges, grasses, and moss, on dry, elevated ground.

Bewick’s swans lay 3-5 white to pale yellow eggs which are incubated by the female alone for 29-30 days while the male defends the territory. Chicks are cared for by both parents and leave the nest after 3 days. They fledge at about 40-45 days and remain in family groups for the first winter.


Bewick’s swans feed mainly on vegetation foraging the stems, seeds, and roots of aquatic plants as well as algae, pondweed, and sedges. They will also eat invertebrates and out of breeding season will visit fields where they feed on grains such as corn and barley. 

Bewick's Swan

Where to see them

Bewick’s swans visit the UK between October and March after breeding in Siberia. They are found mainly in eastern England, around the Severn estuary, and in Lancashire.


Jarmo Pirhonen/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Individual Bewick’s swans can be identified by the patters on their bill which are as unique as fingerprints.

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