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Swans and Ecology: Health Check for Royal Birds

Jul 22, 2015 05:54 PM EDT

Bird officials and others are currently swanning around in the U.K.

That is, the Swan Upping, an annual census of the mute swan Cygnus olor population living along the River Thames, takes place through Friday, July 24. It ends at Abingdon, Oxfordshire, said a release.

David Barber, the official royal Swan Marker, fills a role that reportedly dates from the 12th century. Dressed in a red jacket and with a feather in his hat, he and other officials, the Swan Uppers, travel in long rowboats along the river for several days, stopping when they see young cynets, as detailed on the U.K. government website

Although the swans are mostly doing well, risks to swan health and wellbeing can include high flood waters, foxes and mink, birds of prey, and shooting by air rifles. Regarding the latter, members of the public tend to report shot swans, which can sometimes be saved by veterinarians, a release noted. 

The Swan Uppers encourage children to watch and ask questions about swans, the boats, and the Queen's ownership of the swans. The River & Rowing Museum, in Henley on Thames, also collaborates on projects for elementary-school children, focusing on river ecology, geography, and wildlife habitat, said the release. 

"Young children are fascinated by the sight of young cygnets and are keen to learn about the ecology of the mute swan and the history of Swan Upping, as well as being intrigued by the Royal connection to swans," noted a release

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