Every winter, WWT hosts thousands of Icelandic-breeding whooper swans, attracted by the safe roosting areas (free of predators) and the abundance of food found at Martin Mere, Caerlaverock and Welney Wetland Centres. WWT works to protect whooper swans and their habitats throughout their migration route, addressing any threats where possible.
With funding from COWRIE, DECC and others, WWT used satellite transmitters to track the migration of 50 whooper swans between Britain and Iceland to gather detailed information on their migration routes and check whether their flight paths brought them into conflict with proposed offshore wind farms.
By monitoring the population WWT keeps a check on what needs to be done to protect them. X-rays taken of the swans, when they are caught for ringing and health screening, show that around 13% are living with shotgun pellets embedded in their tissues – a strong indicator of the level of illegal shooting that continues.
Lead poisoning from ingesting spent gunshot is also a problem. WWT studies have demonstrated that a high proportion of birds (43-70%) have elevated blood lead levels which may cause illness and death.