Page last updated at 05:04 GMT, Sunday, 24 January 2010

Experts stunned by swan 'divorce' at Slimbridge wetland

Sarindi and Sarind
Sarindi arrived at the annual migration from Arctic Russia with a new partner

Experts have told of their surprise after witnessing a rare "divorce" between a pair of swans at a Gloucestershire wildfowl sanctuary.

The Bewick's swans have returned to winter at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre at Slimbridge - but both have brought new partners.

It is only the second time in more than 40 years that a "separation" has been recorded at the centre.

Staff have described the new couplings as "bizarre".

It is not unheard of for the birds, which usually mate for life, to find a new mate but it tends to be because one of the pair has died, they said.

During the past four decades 4,000 pairs of Bewick's swans have been studied at Slimbridge, with only one previous couple moving on to find new partners.

Normally loyal

First suspicions of the rare event were raised when male swan Sarindi turned up in the annual migration from Arctic Russia without his partner of two years Saruni and with a new female - newly-named Sarind - in tow.

The pair's arrival led conservationists to fear the worst for Saruni.

But shortly afterwards Saruni arrived at the wetlands site - also with a new mate, Surune.

And after observing them, the experts discovered the old relationship had ended and new ones had begun.

Failure to breed could be a possible reason, as they had been together for a couple of years but had never brought back a cygnet
Julia Newth
Wildlife health research officer

Julia Newth, wildlife health research officer at Slimbridge, said the situation had taken staff by surprise.

She said swans tended to have "real loyalties to one another" and long partnerships.

"As long as they are both still alive, they will try to stay together. If they have a change of mate it is perhaps because of mortality, not necessarily through choice," she said.

In this case, however, both swans and their new partners are now over-wintering in close proximity on the lake at Slimbridge.

Ms Newth said the old pair had not acknowledged each other with any signs of recognition or greeting - even though they are occupying the same part of the small lake.

As for why they may have split, she said: "Failure to breed could be a possible reason, as they had been together for a couple of years but had never brought back a cygnet, but it is difficult to say for sure."

Bewick's swans are the smallest and rarest of the three species found in the UK and each individual can be identified by their unique bill pattern.

Print Sponsor

Russian swans given extra food
10 Jan 10 |  Gloucestershire
Swans raise white Christmas hopes
19 Dec 09 |  Gloucestershire
Twitchers flock to see rare bird
08 Nov 09 |  Gloucestershire
Unusual warmth fools black swan
27 Oct 09 |  Gloucestershire
Swan mix-up signals hope for mate
07 Nov 08 |  Gloucestershire
Exotic birds fly into Slimbridge
24 Apr 07 |  Gloucestershire


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific