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Black Swans

Updated on November 20, 2016

Black Swans

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.

Flying Swan.
Flying Swan. | Source

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

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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.

Black Swan Meets Willem de Vlamingh
Black Swan Meets Willem de Vlamingh | Source

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".

State Coat of Arms of Western Australia.
State Coat of Arms of Western Australia. | Source

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.

Feeding Swan.
Feeding Swan. | Source

Breeding Swans

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 Surfing

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.

Black Swan Chatter

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    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Just as well you're currently in the South, Marisa. There are floods in the North, in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

      Like you, I hope the cygnets will be ok - they must have bred very late in the season. I love black swans.

      Thanks for visiting.

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Marisa Wright 2 years ago from Sydney

      I'm living in Southern England at the moment and feeling somewhat homesick for Australia, so it was a treat to find black swans here too. They are rare, since they aren't native - they are escapees from zoos or stately home estates. I feel sorry for them as usually, I've only seen solitary ones.

      However, back in October, I came across a pair on the Itchen River, with their cygnets! I haven't been back since but I do worry about the cygnets as it's not a good time to be trying to raise a brood as winter approaches. It has been very mild so far so let's hope they are OK.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thanks for the visit and the vote up, Kristen. :-) We've just been on a trip to Canberra, and there were plenty of black swans to be seen. Love these birds!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Lovely hub, Jean. Lovely photos too. Swans are one of my favorite birds in the world. Back in NJ, there was a local pond at a park where I used to feed white swans and ducks some bread. When I visited it last summer, I didn't see any swans. Voted up!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      ww, black swans with white babies are awesome, and they are really beautiful than the white swans

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thanks for your visit, Ann1Az2. I'm not sure if there are any wild black swans in the USA yet, but some have excaped from private collections in some parts of the world and have gone wild. Perhaps they'll make Texas one day. :-)

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      They are beautiful! It's too bad we don't have them in the U.S. I would love to see one in the wild. I loved your video of them surfing. They actually looked like they were just having fun. Well written and enjoyable and I learned something about black swans. I have heard of them but didn't know anything about them. Now I do!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Yes, they are beautiful. Some are escaping from zoos, etc., are are enjoying their freedom in other countries now.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      How very beautiful. I didn't know they were from Australia! I've seen some in person, and they are very stately. Love watching them swim!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Glad you enjoyed the article. Have to admit I haven't seen the movie. Thanks for visiting.

    • oldiesmusic profile image

      oldiesmusic 3 years ago from United States

      The only black swan I knew of is in the movie. I thought it was a legendary creature, but no! There's actually a black swan! Hehehe. They are beautiful indeed. I enjoyed the video too :)

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Hi Nell. Some people think that wild birds should not be given any type of bread, but I tend to give them wholegrain, or just mixed grain and seeds from the pet section of the supermarket. Glad you liked the article.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Well I never knew that about white bread! but yes it does make sense! from now on its going to be brown bread! I have never seen a black swan, and to be honest forgot about them till I saw this, how amazing and beautiful, loved this, and I learned a lot too! nell

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thankyou everyone for your visits and comments.

      @Aviannovice - I knew bread was bad, but not that it could cause bone/feather problems.

      @freecampingaussie, and prasetio30 - Glad you liked the photos, I enjoyed finding them.

      @CMHypno - Black swans seem to be enjoying freedom in quite a few places now, after escaping from captivity. Only hope they don't interbreed with the Mute swans, but perhaps they can't.....

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Beautiful animal. I really enjoy the picture and the video. Thanks for sharing. Good job and Voted up!

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Thank you for the beautiful pictures of black swans and the great information. I saw some when I was travelling on the river in Adelaide and they are very elegant, graceful birds. We now have a few living in the wild in the UK who have escaped from private collections, and they seem to live quite happily alongside our indigenous white mute swans.

    • freecampingaussie profile image

      freecampingaussie 3 years ago from Southern Spain

      Awesome photos ! Thanks for joining us in Recommend another Hubbers Hub! it is good to have some really interesting hubs to check out ~

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I have never met a black swan, so thanks for the information. Nio bread is good for any bird, as it has no nutritional value at all. If you ever see a bird with deformed feathers or it appears to have bone problems, bread could well have been the culprit.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thanks for voting and tweeting. Black swans are great, and they're one of my favourite birds.

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 3 years ago from Arizona

      What a unique article! I loved the pictures and the information. I enjoyed this topic! Voted up and tweeted out!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thankyou for your comments, Thomas. Glad you liked the hub. I'm new here too, having been here about 7 weeks, after being transferred from Squidoo. The capsules work well, once you get the idea. I'll try to add some more images to the Swans hub soon.

    • Thomas J McCabe profile image

      Thomas J McCabe 3 years ago from Hartford, Connecticut


      I'm new at Hub Pages, but I really like this article. Being a serious bird lover, I was interested right away.

      Previously, I had never heard of black swans, but I learned about them through your hub. The way you constructed the hub is impressive. The whole hub process is brand new to me. It took me a while to figure out the capsule concept, but then all of a sudden, I understood it.

      The photo with the chicks in the water is great.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thanks everyone, for your comments! Appreciated. :-)

      Naturgirl7s, I've checked, and the pictures look ok here. Sorry you couldn't see them all.

    • Marie Gail profile image

      Marie Gail Stratford 3 years ago from Olathe, KS

      Interesting. Voted up.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 3 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      They are such beautiful birds. I've seen white swans on lakes, but never black ones though I have always wanted to. Awesome article, interesting with great pictures and just enough fun facts.

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 3 years ago from Covington, LA

      I enjoyed your article. Couldn't see a couple of the pictures, but perhaps they just didn't load correctly.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi snakesmum, I love black swans. They are a very special and beautiful bird. Very interesting hub with beautiful pictures and a wonderful video of the swans surfing. Voted up.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I've seen them only at a wildlife research facility here in the US and enjoyed watching them. It's funny how some animals attract our attention for unexplained reasons. Love that coat of arms.

    • Sreyashi Bhaumik profile image

      Dya 3 years ago from India