A Year in the Sanctuary



Swans on a river on a cold winters day

The New Year sees the largest number of swans in the sanctuary, perhaps 250 or more.  Cygnets are still arriving after leaving their parents’ territories.  Some of the adults themselves, with poor food supplies at home, have flown in seeking food.

The weather can be wild and windy, leading swans to seek shelter at night in the oil basin or the lea of Diglis Island. Flooding can last for weeks, giving the swans a chance to roam over flooded fields in search of food.


By early spring, adults have already returned to their breeding territories, and some cygnets have moved on to other flocks.  There may now be about 150 swans present. Cygnets are almost white; once they moult in June or July, their new feathers will be completely white. 

On ponds, lakes and canals around the City and in the countryside, pairs have built their nests, and are hatching their broods.

The few swans that try to nest up and down the river are chasing away other swans, so the flock spends more time in the sanctuary.

Early April and late May


Summer brings moulting, when feathers litter steps and river.  Over six weeks or so at some point during the summer, each swan loses its flight feathers.  Swans in moult are unable to fly. Flightless swans are more vulnerable to attack.

Good nutrition is important for the growth of the feathers that will keep them warm over the coming winter. 


Come autumn, swans are looking their best and enjoying their new wings.  It’s a good time to see swans flying along the river and over the City.  The first of the new cygnets arrive.  There will likely be sixty or more to come before winter is out.


Swans on a river in the background


Each Christmas and New Year’s Day, The Swan Food Project organises The Big Christmas Swan Feed.

It’s held over several days – always including Boxing Day and New Year. Floating swan pellets are given out for free to thank people for their support during the year. For some people it has become a regular part of Christmas to come together to celebrate Worcester’s beautiful swans. The Mayor of Worcester usually comes to lend a hand on one of the days. Everyone is very welcome!

A collection of swans on the river being fed by a large gathering of people