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Black Swan


Black Swan - Picture of a Black Swan

Black Swan

Alistair Young

Elegant and beautiful, the black swan is one of the most distinctive swan species and one of the most easily recognized with its bold plumage.

Common Name:

Black Swan

Scientific Name:

Cygnus atratus


  • Bill: Spatulate, red with a white subterminal band
  • Size: 48 inches long with 70-inch wingspan, long neck
  • Colors: Black, white, red, gray
  • Markings: Genders are similar with allover sooty black plumage and bright white primary feathers in the wings, though the white is frequently hidden at rest. The feathers on the back tend to curl and may show gray edging. The red bill has a white subterminal band and a reddish or whitish nail. Legs and feet are black. Females are slightly smaller than males, and juvenile birds are pale gray.


Aquatic plants

Habitat and Migration:

Black swans are endemic to Australia but have been introduced in many areas as ornamental birds in parks, gardens, zoos and aviaries, and escaped birds may establish feral populations. In the wild, these birds prefer large, shallow lakes, flooded fields, mudflats, wetlands, wide rivers and sheltered coastal areas throughout Australia, though they are absent from the west-central desert region. While black swans do not migrate, they are nomadic to follow food sources and adequate water.


The black swan has a musical trumpeting call with flute-like notes and nasal honks that may have a "mew" quality. These birds will also croon softly near the nest, and they have a variety of whistles. When threatened, they hiss aggressively.


These are gregarious birds that will gather in flocks of thousands. Breeding colonies can be particularly dense, though black swans are quick to attack intruders near nests or family groups. Their aggressive behavior can include hissing, raised wings and a stretched out neck to intimidate other birds or wildlife. When feeding, these birds may run their bills along the surface of the water, dip their heads and long necks deep under the surface, or even tip up to dabble.


These are monogamous birds believed to mate for life with strong pair bonds. A mated pair will produce a single brood annually with 4-8 eggs, which both parents take turns to incubate for 36-40 days. The precocial young leave the nest within a day or two but will stay with their parents up to 180 days depending on food sources that affect the fledging period. Loose family groups may stay together until the following breeding season when the young birds seek their own mates.

Attracting Black Swans:

These are not backyard birds, but in the appropriate habitat they may stray through wet backyards that offer ground feeding opportunities. Because these birds have been widely introduced in many countries, they may be spotted in many areas with suitable habitat far from Australia.

Similar Birds:

  • Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata)
  • Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor)

Photo – Black Swan © Alistair Young
Photo – Black Swan – Showing Flight Feathers © Jo Naylor
Photo – Black Swan – Wing Pattern © Chun Xia

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