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Black Swan
Cygnus atratus

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)


The Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) is natural to Australia. It is common on the western and eastern parts of the continent, not present on the arid center or humid north. It is also resident on Tasmania, breeding in some places on this island.

It was introduced to New Zealand where it reproduced to become a pest. The over population was eventually controlled, and now a colony of some 60,000 living there is stable.

Ever since it was found in 1697, the Black Swan has been a favorite in the waterfowl collections of Europe, and later America. But even with this popularity, it has not been introduced in the wild fauna of these continents. However, some feral black swans that have escaped from waterfowl collections are reported in Japan with no breeding documented; and in Europe others have bred in Austria, Slovenia and The Netherlands in feral state.


This swan is not a migratory bird but it displaces to other locations, sometimes hundred of miles, according to food abundance, or the lack of it.

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus), a favorite of the waterfowl collections.
Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)


The Black Swan is usually found in freshwater lakes, although it can be seen in any type of water deposit, including the sea coast and occasionally farther out from land. It shows preference for lakes where it can reach the aquatic vegetation on the bottom with its long neck while still maintaining part of the body on the surface, about three feet deep.


This swan is rather sociable. It breeds in colonies made up from a few pairs to thousands of them. After breeding it forms even larger groups. In New Zealand, in the Ellesmere lake, congregations of up to 70,000 have been seen.


Nesting is during the rainy season, which is different according to locality within its extensive distribution. In the colonies the nests are almost next to each other.

The nest is done on small islands, on the banks of lakes and on the aquatic vegetation. Normally the nest is an accumulation of grass and it can reach considerable proportions, six feet wide by three high.

The clutch is usually from four to seven light green eggs, although it is not rare for it to be up to ten eggs. Once laying starts, an egg is deposited every other day. Incubation is done by both parents and it takes from 35 to 45 days.

The cygnets are born white and, as in other swans, they ride on the parents back whenever they can. Later they change their plumage to a dark gray. In six months they are able to fly. They are adults at two years of age.

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus), searching for food.
Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
searching for food.


Aquatic plants. It gets some of these plants from the bottom of the pond or lake by reaching out while keeping the body, or at least part of it, on the surface (as opposed to diving).


The sexes look alike, the males are slightly bigger.
Length from 4 to 4 1/2 feet (1.2 to 1.4 meters).
Males' average weight is 14 pounds, some reaching 19 pounds.
Females' average weight is about 11 pounds.
Wing span is from five to six and a half feet (1.6 to 2 meters).
Adults' plumage is black. There is a light gray (silvery) variation in captivity.
Bill is red with a white band close to the tip.
Legs and feet are dark gray.


The Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) in Spanish is known as “Cisne Negro”. In Portuguese is called “cisne preto”; in German “Trauerschwan”; and in French “Cygne Noir”.

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)

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Last revision: February 1, 2007
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