Bewick’s Swans, the Palearctic race of the circumpolar Tundra Swan, breed across the tundra of European Russia. In winter the population, apart from a small proportion that winters around the southern Caspian Sea, splits roughly in half, one part moving to Japan and eastern China and the other to western Europe. 30-40% of the European population winters in the British Isles, with the biggest flocks in East Anglia, and significant numbers also in Gloucestershire and on the Somerset levels. Bird Atlas 2007-11 revealed a sharp drop in numbers in Ireland since the 1981-84 Winter Atlas, with a 90% range contraction. Numbers in Britain fell as well, but not as drastically – the range contraction was 12%.
    In Wiltshire the first record of Bewick’s Swan came in 1954 when eight were seen at Fonthill Lake. There were then records in all but four of the years up to 1988, after which there was a bit of a lull, with records in only just over half of the years up to the end of the century. Numbers then picked up again after the millennium, records occurring in most years, often with several reports in the same winter. Few of the individual birds seen stayed for more than a day or two at most and indeed some were seen only in flight and there is no evidence that they actually ever landed in the county.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.