All wild birds in Iceland are protected under
Icelandic Act No. 64/1994, with the exceptions provided for in the hunting season guidelines of the Environment Agency of Iceland. Whooper Swans have been fully protected since 1913.
Nevertheless, illegal hunting does take place in Iceland as this picture of Whooper Swans shot in Iceland graphically shows.
A study of Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) has been carried out by taking X-rays of live birds overwintering in the UK. The study showed that shot-in pellets occurred in 13.2 – 14.9% of all Whooper Swans. The likelihood of a bird having been shot increased with its age.
The study also publishes the cause of death of 361 of 962 ringed Whooper Swans found dead since 1980. Of those which had been shot, 20 had been shot in Iceland, five in the UK, two in Ireland and one in France.
The study can be read here:
Incidence of embedded shotgun pellets in Bewick’s swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii and whooper swans Cygnus cygnus wintering in the UK
The study suggests that a considerable amount of illegal hunting occurs in Iceland.
BirdLife Iceland condemns all illegal hunting of any species.
Figures from the study:
Fig. 1. Distribution of (a) the NW European Bewick’s swan population and (b) the Icelandic whooper swan population (from Robinson et al., 2004a, Robinson et al., 2004b).
Fig. 2. X-ray of a Bewick’s swan with embedded shotgun pellets (arrows) and showing the gizzard (oval).
Fig. 3. Percentage of birds with embedded pellets in relation to their age (in years) for Bewick’s swans X-rayed between 1970 and 2008 and for whooper swans X-rayed between 1988 and 2007.
Fig. 4. Pellet count frequency in Bewick’s and whooper swans, recorded as the percentage of swans of each species found to at least one embedded pellet.
Fig. 5. Incidence of shotgun pellets for Bewick’s swans X-rayed between 1970 and 2008 and for whooper swans X-rayed between 1988 and 2007.
Fig. 6. Percentage of Bewick’s and whooper swans with an increased pellet count on re-capture (n = number of birds shot/number of birds X-rayed more than once).
Fig. 7. Mean body condition (calculated as the residuals from regressing mid-winter mass with body size) recorded for swans with and without embedded shotgun pellets for (a) Bewick’s swans and (b) whooper swans. For whooper swans, there was only one bird recorded with pellets for cygnet males, cygnet females and yearling females (n = number of birds recorded with mean body condition).