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Swans in London: types, best places to see and photograph

White swan header image plan B photo

White swans are quite common in the UK. There are more than 8 000 of swans in London.

These magnificent birds were a luxury in medieval period, a sign of mobility and high status. There is a legend that swans were brought to Great Britain in the 12th century by Richard I. Although white swans are most likely native to the country as some of the archeological evidence suggests.

There is a misconception that the Queen owns all the swans in Great Britain. When in fact the Queen only owns unmarked mute swans in open waters. But, because it is very difficult to keep track of all of them, only the swans in Thames river are counted.

There is an 800-year old tradition of counting the swans in Thames river (known as swan upping). It takes place every year at the end of July. As the swan upping shows there are around 1000 swans in Thames river around London and adjusting areas.

Types of Swans in London

You can spot five types of swans in the UK: Mute swans, Bewick’s swans, whooper swans, trumpeter swans and black swans. The most common of them are mute swans.

Mute swans are large, white birds with long curved necks and orange beaks (with a black base). There are about 6 400 pairs of mute swans in the UK. Although, in winter there are as many as 74 000 swans in the UK, as a lot of the birds migrate to Great Britain to escape winter.

Bewick’s swans and whooper swans are very rare can be mostly seen in winter, when they migrate from Iceland and Siberia. Bewick’s and Whooper swans have yellow beaks with a little bit of black. They look very similar, although whooper swans are larger and have more yellow on their bills.

Trumpeter swans can be also seen near London. They have fully black beaks (with a little salmon colour stripe inside the beak). Black colour extends from the beak up to their eyes.

Black swans are rather rare. Although you can still find them in the UK and in London as well.


Where to photograph swans in London

Swans can be found in many ponds and lakes of London parks. You can also see them in Thames River.

London Parks

There are 8 royal Parks in London and in each of them you’ll be able to find at least a pair of white mute swans. In some parks you can even spot black swans.

The best place where you can see a lot of white swans is Kensington Park.


Swans at Kensington Park

Kensington Park is one of the best places to encounter and photograph swan It is located in the centre of London (Borough of Kensington and Chelsea). This park has a small pond full of swans, ducks and geese close to the Kensington Palace.


Swans at Bushy Park

In a more natural habitat swans can be seen at Bushy Park (for example at Heron Pond). There are not as many swans as in Kensington Park, but they are swimming in a beautiful pond, surrounded by green trees and bushes.

Bushy park is a great place for swan photography (one of the best) as the greenery makes a gorgeous natural background.


Where to see black swans

For a long time black swans were considered mysterious birds. Their home land is Australia, but you can see them in the UK as well.

Black swan swimming near London

Black swans in London

In London black swans can be mostly found in wildlife parks. But one of the best places to see and photograph them is probably St.James Park (near the Buckingham palace). There are several pairs of black swans there, so you are most likely to spot some of them.

Black swan looking at a pigeon
Black Swan at St. Jame’s Park, London, UK

Black swans near London

Near London there are several locations where you can see black swans. They can be found in the ponds of big estates like the Audley End House (about 55 miles from London).

Black swans at Leeds Castle

The best location to photograph black swans is Leeds castle. It is located 60 miles from London (about one and a half hour drive by car). The castle is known for its black swans. They are also the symbol of the castle. There are about 40 black swans there.

At Leeds castle you will also be able to see 4 whooper swans and 2 trumpeter swans, which are very rare in the UK, as it is not their home land.

Whooper swans come from Iceland. While trumpeter swans live in North America. You can easily identify trumpeter swans by their black beaks and whoopers by their yellow beaks (with some black).

Posted in Destinations, London

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