Australian Black Swan Facts

Before European explorers had reached Australia, it was believed that all swans were white. Dutch mariner, Antounie Caen, was the first to be amazed at the sight of Australia’s Black swans on the Shark Bay in 1636. Explorer Willem de Vlamingh captured two of these creatures on Australia’s Swan River and returned with them to Europe to prove their existence. From that point on, black swans and Australia have been closely linked. During the nineteenth century, the original Western Australian colony was called "the Swan River Settlement." In 1973, the black swan was officially proclaimed as the "bird emblem" of the Government of Western Australia and now appears on the state flag. Today, the black swan is still found in various wetland habitats in Australia, including the Murray River in the wine growing region South Eastern Australia.
The Australian black species is a large waterfowl, weighing about six kilograms (20 pounds) and with a wingspan measuring two meters or longer. An elongated neck enables the black swan to reach deep into the water to feed on algae and other aquatic vegetation. The black swan builds its nests on islands or in vegetation in the water, typically lying up to six eggs. Both parents share in incubation of eggs, which takes about 35 days. Young swans, called cygnets, are covered in gray down for three to four weeks before their black feathers appear.

COMMON NAME: black swan
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
ORDER: Anseriformes
FAMILY: Anatidae
GENUS SPECIES: Cygnus (swan) atratus (covered in black, as for mourning)


DESCRIPTION: As indicated by its name, this species of swan has dark body plumage with white feather tips on its wings. The bill is orange-red with a white band near the tip and the eyes are bright red.
SIZE: 0.2-1.3 m long (0.22-1.5 ft.)
WEIGHT: Up to 9 kg (20 lb.)
DIET: As herbivores, these swans eat mainly aquatic vegetation
INCUBATION: 29-36 days
CLUTCH SIZE 5-6 eggs
FLEDGING DURATION Approximately 100 days
SEXUAL MATURITY: Approximately 2-3 years
LIFE SPAN: Up to 40 years
RANGE: Australia and Tasmania; populations in New Zealand have been introduced
HABITAT: Found in areas around lakes and rivers
STATUS: IUCN Not listed
CITES Not listed
USFWS Not listed



Drainage of marshy areas is the primary threat to this species survival but these birds are fairly common and widespread.

In Victoria and Tasmania they have caused such crop damage that the government has established short hunting seasons for the bird.



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Gotch, A.F. Birds - Their Latin Names Explained. UK. Blandford Books Ltd., 1981.

Johnsgard, P. Waterfowl: Their Biology and Natural History. London.University of London Press. 1968.

Johnsgard, P. Ducks, Geese, and Swans of the World. Lincoln. Univ. Of Neb. Press. 1978.
Palmer, R.S. (ed.). Handbook of North American Birds. Vol. 4. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
Scott, P. A Coloured Key of the Wildfowl of the World. Slimbridge, England. The Wildfowl Trust. 1988.
Todd, F.S. Natural History of Waterfowl. San Diego, Ca. Ibis Publishing Co., 1996.





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