Australian Black Swans
One of just three swan species found in the southern hemisphere, the black swan (Cygnus atratus) is a large and unmistakable waterbird. Its scientific name means ‘a swan attired in black‘s, and refers to the species’ almost entirely black plumage. The sooty-black feathers are fringed with grey, especially on the upper-parts, and the raised, ‘crinkly’ wing feathers give this bird’s closed wing a somewhat ruffled appearance.
Appearance: – The Australian Black Swan has a mainly black plumage with a line of white feathers on the wings, the beak is red with a white bar and tip, the legs, and feet are greyish black. Both the male (Cob), and female (Pen) look similar although the Cob is slightly larger with a straighter beak. Cygnets are a fluffy greyish-brown.
Size: – Typical Adult is 43-56 inches.
Food: – Aquatic plants, sedges, pond-weed which they can reach with their long necks, and they will also graze on grass when out of water.
Habitat: – Black Swans are found in the wetlands of Australia and New Zealand. They are nomadic birds with no set migratory pattern, they have opportunistic responses to either rainfall or drought.
Breeding Season: – February to September.
Eggs: – 4 to 8 (pale-green color).
Breeding: –Black Swans pair up for life and they build their nests in the wetter months from February to September. Most swans will not allow other swans into their territory during the breeding season, but Black Swans are the exception to this and they often build nests in colonies. Both the male and female contribute to the nest building and the nest consist of grasses, weeds and reeds. The dimensions of the nest are approximately 3.3 – 4.9 ft in diameter and up to 13.3 ft in height.
4 – 7 greenish/white eggs are laid and they are incubated for 35 – 40 days by both of the parents. The cygnets are greyish/brown in color with pale edging on their feathers. After 3 – 4 weeks their new feathers begin to grow and the young swans quickly learn to swim and feed themselves. Sometimes they will ride on their parents back for longer trips into deeper water.
The young swans are tended to by their parents for 6 – 9 months until they fledge and go off and find their own territory.
Notes: – Seventeenth century European explorers were amazed to find black swans in Australia as all swans were thought to be white. The Black Swan has the longest neck, relative to its size, when compared to other species of swan.
- The black swan is the state emblem of Western Australia, and appears on the state flag.
- When in flight, a group of black swans is known as a ‘wedge’, whereas on the ground it is known as a ‘bank’.
- The black swan’s scientific name means ‘a swan attired in black’, and refers to this large waterbird’s sooty-black plumage.
- The black swan is known to make a variety of high-pitched, musical baying, bugling and trumpeting calls.