STATUS IN THE WILD: Least Concern
RANGE: Australia and New Zealand
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
A black swan’s feathers are mainly black, but they also have a line of white flight feathers on the edges of their wings. These feathers are sometimes on show when they are at rest, but they are conspicuous in flight. Their bill is bright red with a pale bar and white tip, and their legs and feet are grey/black in color. They molt once a year after breeding and during this time they cannot fly.
Their neck is long and “S” shaped, and while swimming, they either hold their neck arched or straight and they often carry their wings raised in an aggressive display.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
As swimmers, black swans are graceful and swim slowly even in flocks. In flight a group of swans will either fly in a line or in a “V” shape. Each individual will fly strongly making a whistling sound with their wings and a baying, bugling or trumpeting calling sound. As well as a bugling call, black swans can also make whistling sounds and softer, more crooning notes.
Black swans pair up for life, and they build their nests in the wetter months from February to September. Unlike other swans, black swans 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 female lays four to seven greenish-white eggs, which are incubated thirty-five to forty days by both parents. Once hatched, the cygnets (baby swans) are grey in color and do not start to swim until three to four days later when new feathers begin to come in. Sometimes the cygnets will ride on their parents’ back for long trips across deep water. The young swans are tended to by their parents for six to nine months until they fledge and go off and find their own territory.
The black swan is native to Australia, including Tasmania. It mainly inhabits the wetlands of southwestern and southeastern Australia and is not usually found in the extreme north or in central deserts.
Following the extinction of a subspecies of the black swan in New Zealand due to hunting, the Australian black swan was introduced to the country and has since become well-established. Some black swans have also flown to New Zealand and have recolonized the country naturally.
Black swans are found in the wetlands of Australia and New Zealand, including large lakes, lagoons, swamps and ponds. They prefer permanent bodies of water but can also be found in flooded pastures, tidal mudflats and other temporarily flooded areas.
The majority of the diet is plant material, including aquatic plants and grasses.