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The Black Swan: Tasmania

Updated on January 4, 2014

The Australian Black Swan

A pair of Australian black swans.
A pair of Australian black swans.

The Arrival of our Swan.

In Australia we have black swans. They are large birds and it is impossible to tell the sex of the bird unless it lays eggs.

Black Swans are common on our rivers, coastal lagoons and lakes. They are wild and fully protected. You cannot keep a swan as a pet.

Rod and I live on a small hobby farm in Tasmania. We had a dog and a cat and two geese and a few hens, but we never thought any wild animal would join us. In Tasmania we are lucky because we don't have foxes and our geese and birds are fairly safe from predators. Our falcons, eagles and hawks, and our native quolls will kill birds, so will feral cats, but in general our fowls have a pretty safe life.

One night Rod came in from putting the hens in their cat proof cage and told me there was a black swan sitting under our truck in the carport. Our instinct was to leave the creature alone and hope it would fly away and it wasn't injured. However, in the morning the swan was still there. It was just outside our back door, communing with our geese. The swan seemed to be enjoying their company. This was rather unusual, so I went out to see if it was unhurt or if we needed to call in the wild life rescue people.


A strange swan talking to our geese.

Discovering the swan was tame.

When I went out, the swan appeared happy to see me and came towards me. This was quite unusual so I bent down and talked to it.

Talking to the swan.

Making friends with the swan.

The swan also seemed hungry so I filled a container with some hen food and the swan made a bee line for it. It wasn't rocket science to figure out that this swan had somehow had human contact. We live in a small valley and I rang a friend who knows all sorts of good gossip. My friend told me they had heard of a swan that had been 'saved' from a flood, as an egg, and been hatched by loving lady. The swan had grown up with this lady, but she had relocated it as soon as it was old enough to fly. She had taken it to a river a long way from her home. I asked for the lady's number and gave her a ring.

The lady was very surprised by my call. 'The swan grew up with a few geese,' she told me. It was a bit confused so we called it 'Duck'. If you say hello, it will bob its head. If it is Duck, you can pick him up. Could you try and relocate him again please?' she asked.

'Of course,' I replied.

I rushed outside. 'Hullo Duck!' I said. The swan bobbed its head.

Hello duck!

Duck gobbling up chook food.
Duck gobbling up chook food.
The next door neighbour's dog came along to see what was happening.  Duck wanted to talk to him.  Absolutely no fear of cats or dogs!
The next door neighbour's dog came along to see what was happening. Duck wanted to talk to him. Absolutely no fear of cats or dogs!

Relocating Duck.

It didn't take a minute to find out that Duck loved people. He came to my arms very easily. I picked him up. Then we were off to a place I knew. There were geese there that had gone wild and also loads of native swans and a beautiful swampy patch of fairly remote river. It was several kilometres away from our house. Duck would have geese to feel at home with and his own kind. It was so far from humans he'd never come back.

Duck sat on my lap in the car. His long neck went out and he explored all the dials. Rod hopped in the driver seat. Duck quivered with joy when Rod started the engine. He waggled his head and helped Rod turn the wheel.

As we drove along, he enjoyed looking out through the front window. I didn't have to hold him much at all, or put him in a box. He just sat on my lap and enjoyed himself.

You can imagine the surprise of on coming car drivers as they sailed past, seeing a swan happily sitting on my lap on the front seat. Duck bobbed his head happily, like he was waving as every car drove past,

Duck being picked up.

Duck had no worries being picked up.  He seemed anxious to talk to our dog as I carried him along.
Duck had no worries being picked up. He seemed anxious to talk to our dog as I carried him along.
Duck loved the car! I thought he'd start it himself. He certainly loved driving along.  His head often went over Rod's shoulder as if giving him advice.  He sat very calmly in my lap. I didn't have to hold him.
Duck loved the car! I thought he'd start it himself. He certainly loved driving along. His head often went over Rod's shoulder as if giving him advice. He sat very calmly in my lap. I didn't have to hold him.

Duck's baby pictures, courtesy of Dani.

When Duck was an egg, he was saved from drowning in a flood by Dani.  She kept him warm and loved him and he hatched.
When Duck was an egg, he was saved from drowning in a flood by Dani. She kept him warm and loved him and he hatched.
She kept him dry and warm.
She kept him dry and warm.
She taught him personal hygiene
She taught him personal hygiene
Duck learning technology.
Duck learning technology.
Duck sunbaking.
Duck sunbaking.
Duck leading little lost dogs through long long grass, so they could find their way home.
Duck leading little lost dogs through long long grass, so they could find their way home.

Duck comes back and we get some baby photos.

We let duck go beside a beautiful swampy area. He waddled off rather huffily and we waved goodbye. We laughed a fair bit on the way home. We were happy to have met such a funny swan, and we never thought we'd see him again.

However, two hours later he was back! I have no idea how he knew where to go, or how he found us again. Maybe he hadn't been bobbing his head at the oncoming traffic, but memorising the road route!! Anyway, he obviously liked our geese and our house, because here he was again!

I rang the wild life people and asked what we should do. They said, if he's flown in on his own and is living without walls and is free to do as he pleases then that is OK to keep him around. It is only if people fence wild birds in or cage them that this is illegal.

I rang the lady who had raised Duck and let her know the relocation was unsuccessful. She sent me the following pictures of Duck growing up in her house. She came to visit Duck too and we became very friendly. I discovered he was a very clever Duck, indeed!

Duck moves in and helps us all the time.

We soon discovered Duck was very human. He liked to knock on the door in the morning when we were having coffee and he wanted to join us. Whenever we had visitors he came running to greet them. If Rod had any work to do around the farm, duck would be there giving advice. Duck also liked to tell our dog how to behave.

Duck helping.

Duck liked to start the day by knocking on the door, and asking himself in for a coffee.
Duck liked to start the day by knocking on the door, and asking himself in for a coffee.
Duck like to help visitors feed our hens.
Duck like to help visitors feed our hens.
Duck helped us build a deck.  He really loved the compressor. The minute he heard it go on, he'd waddle up from the dam next door and hang around and help.  He really put his beak into everything.
Duck helped us build a deck. He really loved the compressor. The minute he heard it go on, he'd waddle up from the dam next door and hang around and help. He really put his beak into everything.
Here Duck is making sure Rod is measuring everything correctly.  Rod couldn't move without Duck being a sticky beak.  Duck would put his head under his arm, over his shoulder. And try and move any item in Rod's hand.
Here Duck is making sure Rod is measuring everything correctly. Rod couldn't move without Duck being a sticky beak. Duck would put his head under his arm, over his shoulder. And try and move any item in Rod's hand.
Duck liked nothing better than to tell 'Gerty the Wonderdog', our dog, how to use power tools.  Duck is supervising in this picture.
Duck liked nothing better than to tell 'Gerty the Wonderdog', our dog, how to use power tools. Duck is supervising in this picture.

Duck leaves us.

Duck helped us and made us laugh for nearly two years. He became so well known that people used to come by just to meet him. Sometimes, he flew off for a few days, but he always came back. He'd swoop past the lounge window to announce his return. Unfortunately, we went on holidays and Rod got very sick and we were stuck in Sydney for several months. When we returned home, (fully recovered) Duck was gone.

We didn't hear any more about Duck for months. We missed him terribly. But, one wonderful day we found two swans on the dam next door. (Duck's swimming hole). We called out 'Hullo Duck! and one of them bobbed its head and swam over to us. He didn't get out of the water but we had time to admire his new friend.

We rang our friends and Dani. Everyone came down to meet Duck and his friend. Two days later the two swans flew away. We never saw them again, but...and there is a happy but...down in our village (about four kilometres away), a swan is known for its incredible friendliness. So all the villagers go down and call ..Hullo Duck! The swan bobs its head. (They give him little tit-bits of course) We love Duck! We are glad he grew up and found a mate and is living (nearly) wild, but we do miss him.

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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Imprinted animals will take to humans, but once they are imprinted, they usually cannot survive on their own. Read "The Geese of Beaver Bog," by Bernd Heinrich. It tells of an imprinted Canada Goose that took a wild mate. I thoroughly enjoyed your story.

    • Eleanor Coombe profile image
      Author

      also known as Dan Jerris, who writes pirate stories for boys. 3 years ago

      I agree. But Duck was luckily a boy and I think his hormones got the best of him. He was particularly fond of humans and geese, but he did go off on his own, and we are pretty sure he has a special swan friend now and lives on the river below our house. We do miss him but we are so happy for him. He would have been a drowned egg if Dani hadn't saved him and he gave so many people a great deal of joy, I think her effort was worth it. Thank you for your feedback and your lovely post. I really appreciate it.

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