Comparative study of the breeding success of Whooper swans Cygnus cygnus nesting in upland and lowland regions of Iceland
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
The study assessed the reproductive success at different stages of the breeding season of Whooper Swans Cygnus cygnus from two geographically distinct areas of Iceland, one an upland and the other a lowland region. Censuses made at both sites indicated that the majority of the birds did not attempt to breed and that annual recruitment came from 30 to 40% of the population. Individual females tended to lay more eggs in the lowlands, with a mean clutch-size of 4.7 eggs, compared with 3.8 eggs per clutch in the highlands. A mean brood-size of 3.1 cygnets was obtained at both the highland and the lowland sites in August but the highland cygnets were significantly smaller and lighter. The difference in cygnet size could be attributable to one or a combination of factors including age differences and habitat variables. Lowland adults were significantly heavier than those from the highlands, which reinforced the view that habitat quality was superior at the lowland site. There was no difference in the feather length recorded for adult swans moulting in the two study areas, indicating that the moult occurred concurrently in the highlands and lowlands. The number of cygnets lost per brood between ringing and resighting in the wintering range was significantly higher for the highland swans, although the number of highland families relocated was small. The results indicate that birds from different breeding areas may contribute disproportionately to the percentage of juveniles reared annually in the population.