Why do swans keep landing on our main roads?

Drivers on Hampshire's motorways have been caught in a flap in recent weeks after several sightings of swans landing on our roads.

Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 2:10 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:40 am
Police are often called to help remove swans from busy roads. Credit: Hampshire Constabulary

Last week a traffic officer was captured on camera chasing a swan along the M27, while a driver spotted another on Eastern Road in Portsmouth.

The sightings have confused our emergency services and motorists, and many have questioned why the birds have travelled so far from water.

To find out the answer, we spoke to Richard Stokes, site manager at swan rescue charity Swan Lifeline.

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A swan spotted on the Eastern Road.


Why do we keep seeing swans on our roads?

The answer, it seems, all comes down to the weather.

Richard explained: ‘If it has been raining, the road’s tarmac gets wet, and to a swan that could look like a river.

Traffic officers helped catch a swan on the M27 last week. Credit: Highways England

‘That is why the swan last week kept flying off from the M27 and landing again. It does happen quite a lot.’

Swans have been spotted flying onto main roads, before setting back off again and landing on a different part of the route.

And because swans think they are travelling over water, they will not usually reach a height of more than about seven foot - which can be very dangerous for passing traffic.

Richard said: ‘If swans go through water, they do not give themselves enough height. Unfortunately it means if a lorry comes along they might get hit, and many injure their head, chest and neck.

A swan spotted on the Eastern Road.

‘Usually you have one on the side of the motorway as people drive by, or they might be walking around injured.’


Why are the swans usually on their own?

On most occasions, the swans will be spotted either flying solo or in pairs.

Traffic officers helped catch a swan on the M27 last week. Credit: Highways England

According to Richard, this is because parents will force their cygnets to leave home after about six months, when they are deemed adults.

In many cases the swans, unsure of where to go, will land on roads where they see water, whether that is a main road or on city estates.


What does the charity do to help?

Swan Lifeline, which is based in Windsor, often helps to rescue swans from motorways and main roads.

Working alongside the RSPCA, the birds are taken into care and put into rescue centres so they can be properly looked after.

The charity currently has room to look after 180 birds.

Richard said: ‘If we are called out to a swan we will first make sure it is contained so it is still around when we get there.’

The bird is placed in a wrap, made with velcro to protect its legs from further damage.

To find out more about Swan Lifeline go to their website.