Black Swan

Black Swan



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


1. The term 'swan song' comes from the ancient Greek belief that a swan sang a song of death when its life was about to end.
2. Male swans are called cobs, females are pens, and young are cygnets.
3. Swans have far more neck vertebrae than mammals, with 24 or 25 vertebrae; most mammals only have seven.
4. Swans in general have the largest eggs of any flighted bird.
5. Swan parents will carry cygnets on their back while swimming, enabling the parents to regain weight lost to the rigors of mating, egg laying, incubation, simultaneous feeding, and brooding. This practice also provides protection for the downy cygnets.
6. Swans are known to have a triumph ceremony. Such ceremonies are when a male attacks a rival suitor, then returns to his potential mate to perform an elaborate ceremony while posturing and calling.


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.


Austin, G. Birds of the World. New York. Golden Press, Inc., 1961.

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.