Published: December 2010

Whooper Swans

Whooping Swan

Swan Serenade

The whooper swan is a bird to inspire flights of fancy.

By Cathy Newman
Photograph by Stefano Unterthiner

From the swirl of its initial letter to its sighing vowel and feather-soft final consonant, the very word—"swan"—suggests grace. Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky did not, after all, write Duck Pond. The whooper swan, like its onomatopoeic cousins, the whistling and the trumpeter, belongs to an elegant society of sisters; the mute, Bewick's, black, and black-necked fill out the ranks. First described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, Cygnus cygnus can be considered a swan among swans, the type species, hence archetype, of all swans. It is also a swan of superlatives. With a population of about 180,000, the whooper, though vulnerable to loss of habitat, is among the most abundant of swans and trumps others in the sweep of its range.

Continue »
email a friend iconprinter friendly icon   |