The whooper, often distinguished at home as the " wild swan," is a far rarer visitant to India than the mute swan, having been recorded in India less than half-a-dozen times. The earliest record was, curiously enough, in Nepal, and many years before the first record of the mute swan, namely, in 1829.
All the other specimens have been got in the North-west, more than one having sometimes been seen.
This swan is not noticeably smaller than the other, and is also drab in the first feathering, though white in the down as well as when adult; but it is easily distinguishable at all ages, because the bare patch of skin on the face is always pale, not black—greenish-white in the young, and bright 'yellow in the adult. The end half of the bill, or less, is black, the old one's beak being black up to the basal end of the nostrils above, though the black does not reach beyond the further end of them below; the rest of the bill is yellow, continuous with the yellow face.
The real difficulty is to distinguish this bird from Bewick's swan, whose distinctions, however, are given below. The bill has no knob, and is longer than in the mute swan, while the nostrils are situated farther forward, being in the middle of the bill, while in the other bird they are nearer the base than the tip.
Other distinctions are the short blunt tail, the mute swan's being pointed; the straight goose-like carriage of the neck, and especially the voice, which in this species is a beautiful trumpet-call. This is evidently the swan celebrated in ancient story as singing before its death; in fact, one bird shot in India, on the River Beas, being only winged, "continued to utter its long, loud, musical trumpet-call," while the three birds which had accompanied it were still in sight, as recorded by General Osborn, who shot it, in a letter to Mr. Stuart Baker.
The whooper is a true northern bird, being found in the breeding season chiefly in the Arctic Regions, both in Europe and Asia; but it breeds as near and as far south, apparently, as Seistan, and also nests in Greenland, though not on the American continent. In Iceland it is well known as a nesting species. In winter it regularly comes as far south as Southern Europe in the West, and Corea in the East.
Its general habits are similar to those of the mute swan, but it comes ashore to graze more, and is not so awkward a walker.