Royal inspection confirms bird flu wipes out hundreds of swans on River Thames

  • WATCH ITV News Meridian's Penny Silvester speaking to The King's Swan Marker.

The King's Swan Marker says the recent outbreak of bird flu has had disastrous impact on the bird population on the River Thames.

David Barber was speaking during the annual swan census - or Swan Upping as it's known - a tradition that dates back to the 12th Century.

During the five day journey, the Swan Uppers weigh and measure the cygnets and check them for any signs of injury, commonly caused by fishing hooks and line.  

The flotilla navigates river traffic and locks along the 80 mile route from Sunbury to Abingdon.

The King's Swan Marker David Barber oversees the annual census of swans on the River Thames. Credit: ITV Meridian

The King's Swan Marker, David Barber, said: "This will be the first time Swan Upping takes place under the flags of His Majesty King Charles III and the Crown boats will be proudly flying the pennants and flags bearing his new cypher.

"His Majesty is renowned for his deep and lifelong passion for wildlife, and I am sure this sustained interest will encourage young children to learn more about nature during the Swan Upping season.

"It has been a challenging year for the swan population given the spread of avian influenza, through which we have lost hundreds of swans on the River Thames alone.

"I am pleased to advise that the number of reports of infection has decreased in the past months, which is excellent news."

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