While you may enjoy a bedazzling sight of white swans very often, stumbling on one with a predominantly black plumage happens occasionally.
The word swan itself immediately strikes to mind the image of an elegant white bird, covered in snowy white feathers overall, and not a hint of one with a brilliant black plumage paddling gracefully in the lakes.
Unique in its existence, the Black swan isn’t rare. Like its white cousins, the black swan is an enchanting waterfowl bird that never fails to impress. Belonging to the Anatidae family, the scientific term for the large Black Swans is phylum Chordata; the bird is native to Australia.
Catching a glimpse of the spectacularly elegant black swans is quite a treat. While many local, private, and wild wetlands tend to be populated with white swans, not to forget the ducks and flamingos, one with an elegantly long, erected neck and an entirely black plumage, paddling in the swiftly flowing water is unusual.
This doesn’t mean that these distinctive blackbirds are rare on the planet. You might be amazed to know that there is a vast population of black swans around the globe, majorly dwelling in Australia and New Zealand. Analogous to their waterfowl parallels, these striking birds eat and breed almost the same way.
If you’re intrigued to find out what makes the Black Swans so compellingly attractive, keep reading to find out the distinct features of this bird.
As the name suggests, Black Swans are absolutely, yet magnificently, black in color. There is only a broad white wingtip in the flight feathers with a dense plumage of black feathers. Adding to its exceptional beauty is the bright reddish-orange bill, though massive in size, with a distinct white band spotting the tip of the beak.
Having a considerably large size, the Black Swan measures around 143-156 inches in length, weighing around 3.7 to 9 kgs. It has a large wingspan of 1.6 to 2 meters to cover large distances like its enormous size.
DID YOU KNOW?
Shaped into a perfect S, the Black Swan tends to have the longest neck among other swan species.
No apparent difference exists between the male and female black swan, so it can be challenging to identify them.
Look for these features to tell the two genders apart:
Black swans have a dense plumage of black feathers. Their dark color is simply the result of a large amount of melanin in their feathers compared to their white parallels.
The preferred habitat of Black Swans is the aquatic surfaces. They live in fresh, brackish, and saltwater lakes, rivers, and streams with a cosmopolitan distribution.
Black Swans are quite an adaptive organism, with their habitat extending to a range of wetlands, including flooded pastures and tidal mudflats, and, even sometimes, by the sea coast.
Black Swans are native to Australia, having a large population in the wetlands of southwestern and eastern Australia.
The Europeans first discovered the impressively distinct species in 1697. Until then, swans had always been reminiscent of elegant, long-necked white-feathered birds.
The exotic swans, novel to most parts of the world, were first introduced in the UK in 1967. Not indigenous to most states, they have introduced species in New Zealand, Britain, the USA, and many other parts of the world.
Initially introduced as an ornamental bird to exhibit the exquisite and unique beauty of the swan, they gradually began to populate the water sites.
Today, they can be found in the wild wetlands and captivated in zoos and private parks to ostentatiously display the gorgeous birds.
DID YOU KNOW?
The exotic Black Swans are the official birds of Western Australia, also featured on the flag.
The Black Swan has a vast range, with the current global population of the species to be estimated at 500,000.
Unlike the Mute Swans and Trumpeter swans, the Black swans have a relatively short lifespan. Though they can live for as long as 35-40 years, their average life expectancy has been recorded to be ten years.
Read our post to explore all about the life expectancy of swans.
Though very rare, there have been instances when the Black Swans have mated with their white cousins, taking place in captivity. The resulting offspring is called a brute swan.
Catching sight of these birds would be impeccable, intricately streaked with black and white feathers. Still, according to ornithologists, these hybrid swans may not be the best outcome for the swan population.
Similar to their white relatives, the brilliant black swans are avid floaters. Boasting their long necks, they hold them either arched or erected high as they serenely float on the surface of the water or stroll on the surrounding land.
Black swans have been observed to swim with only one leg, tucking the other one above the tail. According to studies, this makes the swan an avid swimmer, allowing it to navigate and change directions swiftly.
More so, the Black swans are even adept at flight, covering huge distances flying gracefully in the sky with their long, outstretched necks.
DID YOU KNOW?
Black swans fly at night rather than during the day. Their black coloring protects them from predators at night, making it almost impossible to detect them.
Flaunting the streak of white feathers on the edge of their wings, the black swans can fly at an average speed of 18 mph, reaching the maximum speed of around 50 mph.
Typically flying around in large flocks, the swans make a stunning V-shaped formation in the sky. Rising to high amplitudes, the synchronized flapping of wings produces whistling sounds while they honk with their trumpeting vocalizations.
Belonging to the genus Cygnus of the Anatidae family, the swans have multiple species. However, what makes the Black Swan astoundingly different from its other parallels is the Black plumage. Nonetheless, discernible differences can be noticed in these birds due to the environment and their innate habits.
Swans are a highly monogamous species known for their faithfulness, devotion, and eternal love for their partners. Once the male and female swans come together and engage in courtship, they create a life-long bond.
Like with every other species, there are cases of promiscuous behavior where the swans engage in extramarital copulation. Swan fidelity is more common among females, who occasionally turn to other mates.
Cheating with their mate seems to be a relatively common practice among the Black swans, and the chances are that not all the eggs that the male cob is incubating belong to him.
According to researches, 1 out of 7 eggs laid by the female black swan does not belong to her Male partner - it’s a result of adultery, with almost a third of all broods experiencing extra-pair paternity.
The female actively uses this as a backup reproductive strategy if she cannot produce any offspring with her partner.
Even when the partner of a black swan dies, it is quick to find a new mate for itself within a few months. In contrast, it takes a long while for the white swans to recover from their heartbreak.
Typically, swans become extremely aggressive during the breeding season. The mating pairs of most species do not allow other swans to occupy or share their territory, violently chasing off any swans that try to enter their patch.
Preferring to have distinct territories, the white swans fiercely drive away any species by hissing and violently flapping their wings.
The Black Swans are an exception. Unlike their fellows, they prefer creating their nests in colonies with other breeding mates in close vicinity. Both the pen and cob actively take part in building the nest.
Black swans have been observed to be much more aggressive and feisty than white ones. They can often be found in the same waterbody, but unlike the white swans that swim calmly in the lakes, the black swans seem to chase them around, hissing at them.
Exhibiting greater fierceness than the mute swans, they can escape predation from other species; perhaps that is why predators are not a major concern for the bold swans. However, just like they scare off other predators, black swans can be hostile towards humans.
Analogous to their fellows, black swans are loud and rowdy birds, making musical bugle-like calls and whistling around. It also produces a range of softer crooning notes.
Tending to have slightly different calls than the mute swans, the black swans use various vocalizations to communicate. For example, they produce snorting sounds to greet one another, parent swans make yapping sounds to call their brood, and they make sharp whistles to chase away threats from their nests.
The Black Swans have a considerably vast range, predominantly residing in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, and enjoy full protection throughout Australia. Currently, the global population of distinctively gorgeous long-necked birds is estimated to be around 100,000 to 1,000,000.
Despite not being a common ornament of elegance in the country’s wetlands, the Black Swans are densely populated in regions of Australia. Fortunately, their existence is not threatened as the birds are evaluated as the Least Concern species on the IUCN red list.
The entire species of swans resonates with grace, elegance, and beauty. For many cultures, the black swans specifically are associated with love, prosperity, and grace. Possessing most of the same features as their white parallels, with the profound distinction being the dark plumage, a few attributes of the Black Swans make the birds quite noticeable.
To learn more about the black plumaged birds found in our dynamic bird kingdom, read our post entailing details on how to tell a crow from a blackbird, highlighting 5 key differences.
My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!
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