2243. Cygnus cygnus

(2243) Cygnus cygnus.

The Whooper.

Anas cygnus Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 5, p. 122 (1758) (Sweden). Cygnus musicus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 414.

Vernacular names. None recorded.

Description. Pure white, rarely showing a slight rufous-grey wash on the head, this probably due to immaturity.

Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel; bill black, the base of the bill yellow; legs, toes and webs black.

Measurements. wing 578 to 631 mm.; tail about 160 to 180 mm.; tarsus 115 to 123 mm.; culmen 100 to 113 mm.; wing 560 to 594 mm.; culmen about 95 to 107 mm.

Weight, 16 to 28 lbs., 15 to 22 lbs. Indian birds are nearly all immature and weigh much less; Hume gives the weight of one as 8.25 lbs. A specimen shot by General Osborn weighed 21 lbs.

Young birds a pale grey-brown throughout.

Nestling in down white.

Cygnus cygnus can be distinguished from other Swans with yellow lores by its great size when adult, whilst the bill is comparatively as well as actually longer, being very seldom as short as 100 mm. In shape, too, it is distinctive, the upper outline running straight from tip to base of forehead, where it is less deep in proportion than the bill of C. bewicki. In coloration the yellow on the base of the bill in the Whooper extends right down to the upper corner of the nostril and often, beyond it; the outline between the black and yellow is very ragged, the two colours running into one another, though not fusing into an intermediate tint. The serrations in the upper mandible are not visible when viewed from the side.

The young have the bill a dull flesh-colour, with the tip and margins black, which extends with advancing age until it leaves only an orange band across the nostrils; the bases of both mandibles are very pale yellowish-green or greenish-white. In the adult bird the bill has the terminal half black, the base and margins of the maxilla yellow.

Distribution. The whole of Northern Europe and Africa, extending to Japan and Greenland. Buturlin gives its most northern breeding-place as Verkhore-Kolymsk, 65° 4 1/2 N,; south it extends in Winter to Southern Europe, Asia Minor, Persia, India and China.

In India it has occurred very seldom. One, Nepal (Hodgson, 1829); one on the Beas River, Punjab (Osbom, Jan. 1900); one, Larkhana, Sind (Crerar, 1904) ; two, Dora Momim, Kabul River (Magrath & Donlea 1910) and one, Rajputana, (1925), in the grey plumage.

Nidification. The Whooper breeds in the open tundras of Iceland and Northern Europe and Asia during June, but in warm years they commence to lay at the end of May and at other times they do not lay until July or even August. The nest is a huge structure of sticks, leaves, moss, rushes etc., densely lined with masses of white down, which the birds commence to pluck when the first egg is laid, continuing to do so until some time after the last is deposited. They lay four to six eggs but occasionally are said to have as many as seven. Seventy-five average (Jourdain) 112.8 x 72.6 mm.: maxima 126.3 x 76.3 and 114.0 x 77.4 mm.; minima 105.2 x 72.0 and 117.0 x 68.2 mm. In colour the eggs are pale yellowish-white or ivory-white.

Habits. Swans associate in small herds during the non-breeding season and visit India in numbers up to seven together, keeping to the larger rivers and open waters. They feed on grass, clover, water-plants, grain and also on worms, insects, mollusca and land-snails etc. A young Swan is not a bad bird for the table but old ones are not very palatable.

The Fauna Of British India, Including Ceylon And Burma-birds(second Edition)
Baker, EC S (1922–1930) The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Second edition. vol.6 1929.
Title in Book: 
2243. Cygnus cygnus
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Whooper Swan
Cygnus cygnus
Vol. 6
Term name: 

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