Black Swan

Scientific Name: 

Cygnus atratus



Their feathers are mainly black in colour but they have a line of white flight feathers on the edges of their wings. These feathers are sometimes on show when they are at rest but they are conspicuous in flight. Their bill is bright red with a pale bar and white tip, and their legs and feet are grey/black in colour.
Juvenile brown with dull red bill.


1.1 - 1.4 m (3.5 - 4.5 ft)






Life expectancy is about 10 years.

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Black Swans are found in the wetlands of Australia and New Zealand. They are nomadic birds with no set migratory pattern, they have opportunistic responses to either rainfall or drought.


Black Swans prefer larger salt, brackish or fresh waterways and permanent wetlands, requiring 40 m or more of clear water to take off.


Food consists of algae and weeds, which the bird obtains by plunging its long neck into water up to 1 m deep. Occasionally birds will graze on land, but they are clumsy walkers.


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.


Both the male and female contribute to the nest building and the nest consist of grasses, weeds and reeds. The dimensions of the nest are approximately 1 - 1.5 m (3.3 - 4.9 ft.) in diameter and up to 1 m (3.3 ft.) in height.

4 - 7 greenish/white eggs are laid and they are incubated for 35 - 40 days by both of the parents. The cygnets are greyish/brown in colour with pale edging on their feathers. After 3 - 4 weeks their new feathers begin to grow and the young swans quickly learn to swim and feed themselves.


The global population of Black Swans is estimated to be in the region of 500,000 individuals.


Least Concern

Did You Know?: 

Relative to their size, Black Swans have the longest neck of all swan species.
There are seven species of swans in the world, all pure white except for the Australian black swan and the South American black-necked swan.

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C. atratus



BTO Common: