Injuries advice


Swans put their feet on their backs, both in and out of the water. This is to both warm them up or alternatively cool them down. Sometimes the foot is closed and sometimes held open.

Both adult swans and cygnets display this behaviour and it is quite normal but can sometimes be mistaken for a leg injury.



Swans walk awkwardly when on land and can appear to “waddle” like a duck. Swans and cygnets will also stand on one leg for long periods. This is normal but if you see a swan with a definite limp or one that cannot bear weight on one foot it is best to contact us.



Swan with a fishing hook

Signs of hook and line injuries are usually obvious and you should contact us if you see a swan with a fishing hook in its beak or head. If you suspect an injury of this type but only the fishing line is visible this could be more troubling as it may indicate that the swan has swallowed the hook which could be life threatening.

Certain weed from the river bed can look like fishing line when it hangs from the beak. The next time the swan dips down for food this should resolve itself.






Obvious signs of wing injuries, accompanied by the presence of blood, should be reported immediately, especially when the swan is in an unexpected area or seems unable to move.

Swans naturally stretch their wings, one at a time, and lay them down the length of their bodies, this is normal and the wing will be retracted to its correct position shortly.



Dog attacks

Unfortunately the incidence of dog attacks on swans are increasing. If you witness a dog attack please phone the police on 101 and ask to report the incident to the wildlife crime officer.

We cannot report dog attacks to the police after the event. Reports can only be made by the witness to the attack.

Without putting yourself in any danger please get as much information as possible before phoning the police.

We should be informed immediately if a swan has been attacked as the quicker we can start treatment the better chance the swan will have of recovery from its injuries.



From Summer onwards swans moult. The process makes their wings look very ragged and when surrounded by their feathers it can look as if a swan has been attacked. An adult swan can have as many as 25,000 feathers so loosing some during the annual moult is perfectly normal. If you are concerned please phone us for advice.



Trapped swan during a territorial dispute If you see a swan in an unusual area it should be reported as soon as possible. It is likely to have become trapped during a territorial dispute and will be unable to move.

Swans and their cygnets do go walk about! This is normal but obviously if they have wandered into an area that is unsafe for them they will need to be moved. Please phone us for advice.

Cygnets can become separated from their parents at any age. They will need to be returned as soon as possible, or this might indicate that the cygnet has been rejected by its parents. Please phone us is you have concerns.



Cygnets will begin to leave their parents from the Autumn through to the Spring of the following year after hatching. This can happen without anyone noticing and it is quite normal for a family to suddenly get much smaller over night.

Some cygnets are reluctant to leave and will have to be chased off. This can look very brutal and can sometimes appear like an attack but is quite normal. If the cygnet decides to venture back to its parents it will be chased off again. Parents can kill their offspring if they do not leave, as awful as this to see it is unfortunately a normal part of swan’s life. If you see a situation where this seems to be likely to happen please let us know immediately.

Cygnets are not very adept fliers and if they take off for the first time during windy or wet Autumnal or Winter  weather it can lead to accidents. Please phone immediately if you find a cygnet anywhere, on its own, and no where near a waterway.


Angel wing

Cygnets can sufAngel wingfer from this syndrome from an early age. The wings appear to stick out from the body at an angle and do not sit against the body. The wing tips can look tatty. Please phone us immediately for advice as the sooner we start treatment the better the outcome.




General ill health

If you find a swan or cygnet that generally looks unwell, is unable to stand, hold its head up or has damaged feathers please phone us immediately as it could be an indication of botulism or poisoning and the sooner we can assess the situation and start treatment the better it will be for the swan.