COLUMN: Seven types of swan swimming on Earth

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Dr Chris Andrews from RSPB Frampton Marsh looks at the seven types of swan swimming on Earth.

I hope that you have been enjoying the festive season. If, like me, you’ve been bombarded by carols you may have noticed that the 12 days of Christmas is really quite full of wildlife. So I thought for this column, we’d look at one line, the seven swans a-swimming.

There are seven types of swan in the world. That’s a happy coincidence if there ever was one. But did you know that at this time of year, you can see three of those species in and around Boston?

The mute swan is the swan we are all most familiar with, as it lives here all year round. Pure white, with an orange bill and that familiar number 2 shape as it glides through the water. The name ‘mute’ isn’t wholly correct. They do make a range of grunts, hisses and whistles, especially when annoyed. You may not be so familiar with the other two swans, as they are winter visitors. Whooper swans are about the same size as mute swans, but with a black and yellow bill and much less of a curve in the neck. They summer in Iceland and Scandinavia, and come here to escape the harsh winter weather. Bewick’s swans look like smaller versions of the whooper swans, and come down from Siberia. Another two species of swan live up in the high north, the trumpeter and tundra swans. They are also pure white. However there are two species that come from the southern hemisphere and have different colours. Black swans live in Australia and are indeed jet black. While black-necked swans live in South America and have white bodies and black necks and heads. Oddly, you are more likely to see them than either tundra or trumpeter swans, as they used to be popular birds to keep on the ornamental lakes of big country houses and some escaped.

There is one other swan you might notice in Boston. If you go to Trinity Street you will see a block of flats with a large swan perched on top of it! The building used to be a feather factory, providing the stuffing for pillows and mattresses, and the swan was added to advertise its wares.

Want to see some wild swans? Well, do pop along to Frampton Marsh, where you can often see all three wild species at once. The reserve walks will help work off all those mince pies too!