CREATURE FEATURE: Black Swan

The black swan (Cygnus atratus) is native to Australia.

It is the only entirely black-coloured swan in the world. Only the tips of its flight feathers are white, which can only be seen when flying. Its bill (beak) is deep orange-red with white bands at the front.

Swan

black swan

The black swan is a water bird and feeds mainly on algae and aquatic weeds. It dips its head and neck into the water scooping up plants from the lake bed.

Like ducks, swans sift and filter their food through special plates called lamellae. These tiny rows of plates along the inside of the beak allow swans to filter water out and keep the food inside its mouth.

swan beak

black swan

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black swan’s beak showing the lamellae

The black swan pairs for life, and has one brood of about 4-10 chicks per season. The chicks (called cygnets) are grey and develop their black feathers when they are about nine months old. Adult swans are quite large – the size of a goose. Males are called cobs and they are larger than females, called pens.

Although only native to Australia (mainly in the south), the black swan is not currently under threat of extinction or significant decline. It is protected in New South Wales, in the east of Australia, under the National Parks and Wildlife Act of 1974. There are now colonies in many other countries.

swan

black swan

swans

black swans

Photographer: Martina Nicolls

Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

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