Swans are a very large heavy water bird and are closely related to geese and ducks. The are 7 species of Swan worldwide, those from the Northern hemisphere typically have white plumage, whereas those from the Southern hemisphere are mixed black and white.
The Mute Swan is native to Britain and is here all year round, other breeds you will find in the wild within the UK during the winter months are the Whooper Swan and the Bewick's Swan. The other breads listed you will come across in some of the Wetland centres and other wildlife collections within the UK. For instance I have seen the Black Swan in the Wildfowl and Wetland Centre in Slimbridge Gloucestershire and the Black Necked Swan at Martin Mere in Lancashire.
They usually mate for life although they have been known to "divorce" particularly following a nesting failure. Swans lay eggs and can have a clutch size of between 3 and 8. A female Mute Swan will typically have a clutch of 6 and takes 25 days to incubate and are usually born around May, and can usually fly at 4-5 months, around September time. They are devoted parents keeping a watchful eye on them at all times and allowing them to 'hitch a lift' on their backs as well as teaching them how to feed on the underwater plants which forms a major part of their diet.
The Bishops Palace, at Wells Cathedral, Wells in Somerset has Mute Swans within its moat. For centuries they were trained to ring bells via strings attached to them to ask for food. In fact it is said two swans still do. Take a look at their Swan Watch to keep up to date with what the Swans are getting up to.
Locations for catching a glimpse of Swans in the UK
Throughout the UK our native Mute Swans can be found on many of our rivers, gravel pits, canals and open water spaces. There are also various other locations including a Swannery and Swan and Rescue Sanctuaries where you can get to see them close up.
Over the years the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed has become home to the second largest mute swan colony in Britain. The swans are now such a familiar feature of the Tweed estuary that they have become a well-known tourist attraction, and at peak times almost 800 birds have been counted on the river. There are around 200 permanent residents (mainly non-breeding adults and juvenile birds) but the numbers increase in late summer and through the winter as swans from other areas arrive to undergo the annual moult or to take advantage of the rich feeding at the Tweed estuary.
Take a look at our Where to Photograph Swans list page for a list of places where you can see and photograph Swans.
Where to Photograph Swans (Location List)
Swan Upping - the ancient annual census of Mute Swans on the River Thames