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Habitat Ecology Information

What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #25 Black Swan

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#25 Black Swan
(Cygnus atratus)

The Black Swan is one of a kind as it is the only entirely black swan in the world. Found across Australia with the exception of far north Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula this large bird frequents large bodies of brackish, fresh or salt water as well as permanent wetland areas and lakes. Due to their size they require large bodies of water in order for them to take of.

This is bird is easily distinguished from others by its almost all black covering of feathers. The wings have white tips, which are more obvious during flight. Young birds are greyer in colour and have black wing tips. The beak of the Black Swan is a deep orange red colour with a distinctive white tip. Black Swans range in size from 120 – 140cm high.

The Black Swan is a vegetarian eating the aquatic vegetation from the water bodies it inhabits. Plunging its long neck into the water and often inverting itself with just the tail visible to obtain its food. They may also graze on land but they are clumsy and have a distinctive waddle when moving about on land.

Black Swans pair for life and will breed in small colonies raising one brood per season. Breeding takes place during the late winter and early spring in the south from July – September. Up to 10 eggs may be laid on an island or on a floating bed of reeds and grasses obtained close to the nest site. The young chicks or cygnets are able to feed and swim from birth.

© Habitat Ecology 2013