Black Swan

Black Swan

Scientific Classification

Common Name
black swan
Genus Species
Cygnus (swan) atratus (covered in black, as for mourning)

Fast Facts

The Black 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.
0.2 to 1.3 m long (0.22 to 1.5 ft)
Up to 9 kg (20 lbs.)
These swans feed primarily on aquatic vegetation.
29 to 36 days
Clutch Size
5 to 6 eggs
Feldging Duration
Approximately 100 days
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 2 to 3 years
Life Span
Up to 40 years
This species has an extremely large range and can be found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.
Found in areas around lakes and rivers
The global population is estimated between 100,000 to 1,000,000 individuals. It is stable and not severely fragmented.
IUCN: Least Concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

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.

Male swans are called cobs, females are pens, and young are called cygnets.

Swans have far more neck vertebrae than mammals, with 24 or 25 vertebrae while most mammals only have seven.

Swans in general have the largest eggs of any bird capable of flight.

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.

Swans are known to have a "triumph ceremony". These occur when a male attacks a rival suitor, then returns to his potential mate to perform an elaborate ceremony while posturing and calling.

Ecology and Conservation

The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

The drainage of wetlands is the primary threat to this species 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.

BirdLife International. 2018. Cygnus atratus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22679843A131907524. Downloaded on 03 December 2018.