Black Swan

Black Swan

Animal Profile

Scientific name Cygnus atratus
Class Bird
Length 39 inches (99 cm)
Wing span 6 feet (182 cm)
Weight 8 pounds (4 kg)
Life span 30-40 years
Incubation 32-36 days
Number of eggs 4-7 at a time
Age of maturity 3 years
Conservation status Least concern

Where do they live?
Black swans are found mainly in Southern Australia and they live in the shallow waters of lakes and rivers, coastal areas and marshes. They can live in either fresh or saltwater.

A swan’s supper
These birds eat aquatic vegetation and small animals found near the water. At the zoo, they eat trout chow, grain and vegetables. Black swans feed at dusk and they do not dive when looking for food. They merely submerge the head and neck and sometimes the forward part of the body.

Like a dancer
Swans are the largest of the water fowl and among the most graceful despite their size. They are readily distinguished from geese by their elegant necks, which are often longer than their bodies. The black swan is completely black except for a white area on the wings which shows only in flight. The black swan usually holds its neck in a flowing S-curve, with its beak pointed downward. Its bill is orange-red with a white band near the tip, its eyes are bright red, and the legs and feet are black.

Graceful birds…
Swans fly and swim very well. Although they fly well, they are non-migratory, meaning they don’t leave their homes for the winter. By changes in their posture, these birds communicate to other members of their flock when they are about to fly. This is an important signal since larger-bodied birds need considerable takeoff space. When the bird raises its neck, smoothes its plumage and faces into the wind, this tells other swans that it is ready to fly. They have been clocked at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.

…but a little cranky at times
Swans will attack any human who intrudes on their nesting territory. Ill-tempered and territorial, they will not tolerate other swans, except their mates and young. The general rule is for one pair of swans to occupy the same pond or stretch of stream for their entire lives. Swans frequently hiss or grunt when they are caring for their young, and they have even been known to bark like dogs.

Swan families
Black swans lay a clutch of 4-7 greenish-white eggs and the male and female incubate and raise the young together. Young swans, or cygnets, remain with their parents for one year. After breeding, the parents molt and become flightless for a short time. Once they mate, swans remain together for life. Both partners share in building their nest, defending and incubating their eggs and caring for their young. All young waterfowl can swim and feed themselves just after hatching, and during their first few months they eat only water insects and aquatic vegetation. At the start of the next breeding season, young swans are forced to leave and spend the summer with other immature and non-breeding birds.