- Pets and Animals»
What is it that makes us attracted to a particular bird or animal? I'm not sure, but black swans are a bird which I love to see when visiting an area where they live. They are so graceful and certainly add something special to a scene. Being brought up in the UK, I was used to seeing white swans, so black ones were a big surprise!
The black swan (Cygnus atratus) is found in Australia and New Zealand, with the exception of the Northern part of Queensland. In New Zealand, they were extinct due to hunting, but were later re-introduced.
Mostly, these birds breed in the southern parts of the country, and they are nomadic. The pattern of their travels depends on climatic conditions, as a body of water is a necessity for them, particularly for feeding and breeding.
Description Of A Black Swan
The birds are mostly black, but as you can see in the photo above, the flight feathers are white. They have a bright red bill, and their feet and legs are grey to back. Male birds, known as cobs, are a little larger than the female birds, or pens, and have a bill which is a little straighter and longer.
Adult swans are about 45 to 55 inches in length (110 - 140cm) and can weigh up to 8 lbs (9 kg). They have a very large wingspan, approximately 5ft to 6.5ft (1.5 - 2 Metres). Black swans have the longest neck of any swan, and it is curved into the shape of a letter "S".
Black Swan Poll
Have you ever seen a black swan in the wild?
Odd Bits About Swans
Swans lose all of their flight feathers at once, and are unable to fly for about four weeks, during which time they will stay in groups near water for safety.
They fly at night and rest with other swans during the day when they are migrating.
As swans are large birds, they need approximately 35 - 45 metres of water from which to take off.
Before black swans were discovered in Australia, it was believed that all swans were white.
Black swans have better temperaments than their cousins, the Mute swan, and are said to make good pets.
Don't feed white bread to swans - it's bad for them, and can affect their temperament.
Black Swan Resting
Swans Don't Sing
Swans don't have a song, as many birds do. Instead they bugle, a sound which can be quite loud and will carry quite a distance. They can also make crooning sounds. They also whistle, and this may be heard when they are disturbed in the nesting season.
When Were Black Swans Discovered?
Willem de Vlamingh, a Dutch sea captain and explorer is credited with discovering the black swan, in 1697, when his expedition sailed up a river in then unnamed Western Australia. There is a statue in Perth, on the foreshore, which commemorates the meeting of Willem and the bird.
The members of the expedition decided they had done enough exploring after seeing the black swan, and sailed back down the river, which they named "Swartte Swaane Drift", or as it is known today, the "Swan River".
The State Coat of Arms
Today, the black swan is part of the coat of arms of the State of Western Australia, along with the kangaroo, the boomerang, and a styalised river.
Swans on Grass
What Do Black Swans Eat?
Black Swans are vegetarians. Their food is mainly weeds and algae, which they get by ducking their necks under water, or grazing on those plants growing above the water level. They can reach at least two feet (.65M) down. Sometimes they will eat grass and weeds on the shore, but prefer to eat in the water.
In many parks and botanical gardens, these birds have learned to beg for food from the people visiting, and unfortunately, they get far too much bread, chips, and other such foods, which do them no good at all.
These birds may live in small groups or even single pairs in wetlands of either fresh or brackish water. They may also be seen in much larger groups, depending on food supply and the season.
Black swans mate for life. They build an untidy nest of grasses and reeds, which may be on an island or floating.
Only one brood is raised each season, and up to 10 eggs are laid. The breeding season is June to September in the Southern parts of Australia, and February to May in the warmer North. Both parents care for the chicks, which are able to feed and swim as soon as they come out of the egg. The chicks, or cygnets, are born with grey down, which will change colour as they mature.
Sometimes, if there is drought, and water supplies dry up, the adults will abandon the nest and the eggs or chicks, and leave for wetter areas.
Swan With Cygnets
Swans Are Beautiful
The picture above was taken by me on a recent trip to Canberra. There are quite a few swans and other water birds living on Lake Burley Griffin, a man-made lake in the centre of the city. This bird looked magnificent.