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Black-necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus or Sthenelides melancoryphus)


A native of southern South America and perhaps the most attractive of all swans.

Description: A typical swan but with a velvet black head and neck and a large red knob at base of bill. A narrow white line extending from forehead to a little behind the eye, iris is dark brown. Remainder of the plumage is white. Bill is blue-grey, legs and feet pink. Juvenile: Similar, but the head and neck feathers are duller brownish grey. Attains adult plumage by end of first year, but some dusky tipped primaries retained until third year.

Field Identification:

Length 102-124 cm (40-49in).

Males are much larger and longer-necked than females.

In Flight: Typical swan shape, although a little stockier than other species. It has a white plumage and a striking black head and neck.

Voice: The wings produce a whistling sound in flight. The typical call is a weak, wheezy whistle although commonly uttered both on water and in flights, it is not far-carrying.

Habits: A very strong territorial and aggressive swan in the breeding season. The season varies according to the latitude: in central Chile and Argentina it is in July and August. In the Falkland Islands they breed from early August to mid September.

Nests are located in dense fringe vegetation by lakesides, but may be on small islands or even partially floating. Cygnets are carried on back of adults until quite large. They rarely come onto land, its relatively short legs and log body giving it a very awkward gait. Take-off and landing executed with more difficulty than other swans, again possibly owing to relatively short legs.

Feeds chiefly in shallow water by dabbling and submerging head.

Habitat: Freshwater marshes and shallow lakes, coastal lagoons, estuaries and sheltered coastal bays.

Population: Seem to be under little threat although drainage of lowland wetlands for cattle-farming has no doubt affected its population. Reported to be increasing in Chile following former decrease through persecution.

Breeds from Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands, north to Central Chile, southern Paraguay and south-eastern Brazil.

The Swan Sanctuary