Every winter, a network of observers carries out coordinated age assessments of Whooper and Bewick’s Swans at various sites in the UK. As well as being locally coordinated, the surveys coincide with assessments being undertaken elsewhere across the populations’ flyways. Age assessments provide an indication of breeding success, an important demographic factor that affects the status of a population and having a measure of breeding success is vital for understanding population change.
The current network regularly surveys many of the key areas that hold Whooper or Bewick’s Swans, including sites around WWT centres at Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway), Martin Mere (Lancashire) and Welney (Cambridgeshire). Some of the Scottish isles are also regularly covered, along with sites in Ireland. However, there are numerous sites elsewhere in Britain where flocks are not regularly aged – this is particularly the case for Whooper Swans which are much more widely dispersed than Bewick’s. Therefore, we are keen to expand our network of age assessors in order to cover more sites away from these key areas.
Would you be interested in helping?
Ageing Whooper and Bewick’s is fairly straightforward due to the obvious difference in plumage between the adult and young (first-winter) birds. However, observers must be confident in their identification of either species (there are some areas where both species may occur together) and have some experience of counting birds. Click on the link below for further information on how to carry out an age assessment of Whooper or Bewick’s Swans.
Records are welcomed from any site holding Whooper or Bewick’s Swans, though we are particularly keen to obtain age assessments of Whooper flocks in Scotland.
Priority count dates are set once a month between November and January – see our Get involved page for this season’s priority dates.
If you are interested in taking part and would like further information please get in touch using the online contact form. Alternatively, if you are aware of a Whooper or Bewick’s Swan flock in your area and you are happy to undertake age assessments then please do so. Results can be submitted online at monitoring.wwt.org.uk/recording (registration is required to use this site). If, for whatever reason, you are unable to submit data online a recording form can be downloaded here.
Results from the age assessments can be found on our species account pages.