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Swans are very large goose-like water birds that feed on aquatic vegetation, and when adult have mainly white plumage. The mute swan is the most common, breeding on any permanent water, sometimes on quite small ponds. It can be distinguished from the other two species of swan by its red bill. When flying its wings make an almost musical whine, a sound not heard from other species of swan.

Bewicks swan and whooper swan are winter visitors from the far north, Scandinavia and the Arctic. They both have a bugle-like call, often given when flying in to land, and yellow-and-black bills. Bewicks swan is the more goose-like of the two and more likely to be seen in Essex, especially at Abberton Reservoir when the water level is low in autumn or winter.

© Owen Keen