Whooper Swan

Wilde zwaan

Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)

The Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) is a large swan from the family of water birds that includes ducks, geese, and swans (Anatidae).

Species name

Dutch name:
Wilde zwaan
English name:
Whooper Swan
German name:
French name:
Cygne Chanteur
Scientific name:
Cygnus cygnus

Scientific classification




All White but sometimes with orange –brown staining on head and neck from feeding in iron rich water. Large black and bright lemon-yellow bill; yellow extends from base of bill to nostrils on top of upper mandible and to below and beyond nostrils on side, with reminder black, including cutting edges of upper mandible back to base. Bare skin, from base of bill to eye, yellow. Legs and feet are black.

Same in appearance as male but slightly smaller. When paired you can tell according to size difference.

Grey-Brown, darker on the head and neck, paler on underparts. Gradually becomes whiter during first year, though a few scattered grey-brown feathers on head and rump retained well into second year. This gets full adult plumage by the end of second winter. Bill pink at base, brown towards tip, pink slowly changing to yellow after first year.



Swans are generally aggressive and territorial, particularly while breeding, and each pair should be maintained in a separate pen, away from other swans, geese and large ducks, although the pen may be shared with small ducks, as these are usually ignored by most swan pairs. Fences adjoining other pens should be solid or screened with vegetation to avoid injury from swans trying to fight each other through wire fencing, and should be as tall as the swans themselves, to prevent fighting over the top of the fence.

Good amounts of vegetation should be provided for nest building, with cover available for early-nesting species. Parent hatching and rearing is usual. Swans are able to defend their young against most predators, and their highly-aquatic lifestyle also makes cygnets less vulnerable. 

Standard Measurements

Body Length (cm):
The male (drake) of the Whooper Swan measures approximately 140–165 centimeters. The female measures approximately 140–165 centimeters.
Body Weight (grams):
The male will weight about 8500–12700 gram. The female will weight about 7500–8700 gram.
The weight is notoriously variable and can only be used as indication!

Swans may be best kept on a large area of natural water containing aquatic vegetation, and the surrounding land. For a single pair, a pen of at least 400 square metres is suggested, of which half the area should be water and half grazing land. Banks should be at a shallow angle to allow easy entry to and exit from the water; this is particularly important if cygnets are to be parent reared. More than one pair may be kept in very large parks where each pair can establish a breeding territory. Swans appreciate water weed and grass, but other green foods such as lettuce and cabbage may be used as substitutes if necessary. They are relatively slow eaters and care should be taken in mixed enclosures that they get sufficient food. Natural food should be supplemented with floating pellets.


Whooper swans are extremely aggressive, particularly in the nesting and rearing season; they require a separate enclosure. A reasonable water area and grassland for grazing should be provided, plus additional food.

These swans are generally easy to breed. They lay on a large pile of vegetation (plenty of nesting material should be provided), preferring a secluded waterside area shielded with reeds/bushes; they may also use a floating turf-covered raft, in which case nesting material provided on the water for building on the raft. Cygnets may be parent hatched and reared without difficulty in an area with plentiful grass. Cygnets spend most of their time on the water when not being brooded, and feed should be placed on or near the water.

Hybrids have been reported with Mute swan (Cygnus olor)Trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator)Tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus)Greylag goose (Anser anser).


The female Whooper Swan usually lays from 3–7 creamy to yellow-tinged eggs and incubates them for 36 days.

Artificial incubating:

The ideal relative humidity for incubating most waterfowl eggs is 55% (ground nesters) and 40% (cavity nesters). The temperature is usually 37.4°C. Set ventilation as recommended by the incubator manufacturer. Eggs must be turned, either automatically or by hand, a minimum of 4 times a day. As the duckling develops there is a loss of water from the egg and the air sac gets bigger. In normal development of an egg with a 36 days incubation, the air sac occupies about a third of it three days earlier. Cleanliness is vital and ideally eggs should be moved to a separate hatcher at this point, where the humidity should be increased to 65% and even higher once they have pipped internally.

Bird banding:
Recommended closed leg band ring size for the Whooper Swan is 27 mm.
The leg band ring can only be applied on a young large swan at around 18 days old.

It doesn't matter what leg that you band, but it's good to have a consistent system.
Suggested: Left leg = Female, Right leg = Male
Maintenance food:
Lundi Regular
Lundi Regular
Lundi Regular
Lundi Regular
Lundi Regular

Lundi Regular with a protein content of 20%, valuable Spirulina and high-quality by-products is optimally balanced in its composition maintenance food for water ornamental fowl of all kinds. Especially green teal and Whistling ducks that are not dependent on a very high protein content, are well supplied.

Lundi Regular contains all the minerals and vitamins in full form that are important for the animals. Therefore also suitable as breeding food.

Europese soort

Het is niet verboden om deze vogels te houden die van nature in Nederland voorkomen, op voorwaarde dat deze vogels in gevangenschap zijn geboren; nakweek dus. Deze vogels zijn voorzien van een gesloten pootring. Het is wel verboden om deze vogels te houden die in het wild gevangen zijn. Alleen bepaalde instanties, zoals vogelasiels en vogelhospitalen, zijn bevoegd om jonge en gewonde wilde vogels te houden. Deze bescherming van vogels wordt vormgegeven door schadelijke handelingen te verbieden zoals:het doden, verwonden, vangen, bemachtigen en met het oog daarop opsporen van vogels (art. 9 Flora- en faunawet); het opzettelijk verontrusten van vogels (art. 10 Flora- en faunawet);het beschadigen, vernielen, uithalen, wegnemen en verstoren van nesten, holen of andere voortplantings- of vaste rust- of verblijfplaatsen van vogels (art. 11 Flora- en faunawet);en het zoeken, rapen, uit het nest nemen, beschadigen of vernielen van eieren van vogels (art. 12 Flora- en faunawet).

Photos of the Whooper Swan

Videos of the Whooper Swan