Comparisons of Whooper Swans on Scillies 2009 to 2019

All photographs copyright Paul Gale Bird Photography

Whooper swans live for many years, pair for life and migrate each and every year, typically to the same wintering grounds (e.g. Caerlaverock WWT in South west Scotland and Welney WWT on the Ouse Washes). Individual adult Whooper swans can be distinguished by the patterns on their bills. One use of digital photography is to compare individuals. Here the bill patterns of the six adult birds on St Agnes in 2009 are compared with those of the eight adult birds on St Mary's in 2012. In October 2014 there were two Whooper swans on Tresco Great Pool with single adults on Bryher (with three cygnets) and St Mary's Lower Moors in 2017 and 2019. The 18 adult birds are clearly different individuals, while two show some similarity in terms of asymmetry of the pattern. These two  birds are directly compared below. The bill patterns are sufficiently different to conclude that all sixteen birds are different individuals. This is consistent with my hypothesis that Whooper swans seen in October on the Scillies represent small flocks of birds off course from their regular wintering ground rather than birds on a regular migration route.


Whooper Swan 3 2009

Whooper Swan 5 2012


Beak patterns of 18 adult Whooper Swans

Whooper Swan 1 St Agnes 2009

Whooper Swan 2 St Agnes 2009

Whooper Swan 3 St Agnes 2009

Whooper Swan 4 St Agnes 2009 Whooper Swan 5 St Agnes 2009 Whooper Swan 6 St Agnes 2009
Whooper 1, Tresco Great Pond 2014 Whooper swan 2, Tresco Great Pond 2014 Adult Whooper Swan  Bryher, 2017
Whooper Swan 1 2012 Whooper Swan 2 2012 Whooper Swan 3 2012
Whooper Swan Lower Moors 2019 Whooper Swan 5 2012 Whooper Swan 6 2012
Whooper Swan 7 2012 Whooper Swan 8 2012 Whooper Swan 9 2012

Scillies All Years

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