Our Animals - Australian Black Swan
Our Animals > Australian Black Swan
The Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) is a large waterbird which breeds mainly in the southeast and southwest regions of Australia.
Black swans were first seen by Europeans in 1697, when Willem de Vlamingh's expedition explored the Swan River, Western Australia.
The black swan was described scientifically by English naturalist John Latham in 1790. It was formerly placed into a monotypic genus, Chenopis.
The common name ‘Swan’ is a gender neutral term, but ‘cob’ for a male and ‘pen’ for a female are also used, as is ‘cygnet’ for the young. Collective nouns include a ‘bank’ (on the ground) and a ‘wedge’ (in flight). Black Swans can be found singly, or in loose companies numbering into the hundreds or even thousands.
Swans are primarily black feathered birds, with white flight feathers. The bill is bright red, with a pale bar and tip; and legs and feet are greyish-black. Cobs (males) are slightly larger than pens (females), with a longer and straighter bill. Cygnets (immature birds) are a greyish-brown with pale-edged feathers.
A mature Black Swan measures between 110 and 142 cm (43-56 in) in length and weighs 3.7–9 kg (8.1-20 lbs). Its wing span is between 1.6 and 2 metres (5.3-6.5 ft). The neck is long (relatively the longest neck among the swans) and curved in an "S".
The Black Swan utters a musical and far reaching bugle-like sound, called either on the water or in flight, as well as a range of softer crooning notes. It can also whistle, especially when disturbed while breeding and nesting.
The Black Swan is unlike any other Australian bird, although in poor light and at long range it may be confused with a Magpie Goose in flight. However, the black swan can be distinguished by its much longer neck and slower wing beat.