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Black Swan (Cygnus atratus or Chenopis atratus)


Found on lakes in Australia and New Zealand.


Description: The adults are completely sooty-black with slightly greyer fringes to body and wing feathers, most noticeable on upper-parts. Inner wing-coverts and tertials with curled edges. Bill and bare skin to eye orange-red to deep waxy-red, with white sub-terminal band and pinker nail. Legs and feet black, iris white or reddish. Juvenile: Bill dark grey with paler nail, attains adult bill colour after a few months. Greyer than adult with rather lighter under-parts and broader. Paler feather fringes than adult, but dusky-tipped. Resembles adult after first moult, but some retain dusky tips to some primaries until third year.

Field Identification:

Length 115-140 cm (45-55in).

The males are usually larger and longer necked than females.

In-Flight: Typical swan shape. White flight feathers contrast strikingly with otherwise black plumage, making it unmistakable in flight: juveniles show dusky tips to white flight feathers.

Voice: a high pitched bugling, rather musical and not very far carrying, but may be uttered both on water and in flight. Other, more conversational notes may be heard from birds on the water.

Habits: Highly gregarious concentrations reaching tens of thousands on some favoured lakes in southern Australia. Breeding season varies somewhat according to local conditions. The breeding dates are February-May in northeast Queensland and June-August in Western Australia.

Nest are located close to the waterside in fringe vegetation or on small islands typically in colonies as dense as to be just outside pecking distance of a neighbour. After breeding there is a considerable dispersal of the species and they can be found in all parts of Australia, but these movements are not clearly understood, they seem to be connected with the search for new breeding areas following the rains.

They feed primarily by submerging head and neck, but some-times up-ends and dabble; also grazes on waterside pastures.

Habitat: Breeds by large, relatively shallow lakes, of both fresh and brackish water. Away from breeding areas, may be found on flooded agricultural land, coastal lagoons and estuaries and even in sheltered coastal bays.

Population: Protected both by law and by sentiment in Australia although because of large concentrations and resulting crop damage, a short hunting season has been introduced in Victoria and Tasmania.

The Swan Sanctuary