Black Swan

So on my trip to the UK several years ago, I saw several ‘new’ birds that I knew I probably wouldn’t be seeing withi the US (outside of a zoo). One of those birds was the black swan that I spotted within Kensington Park. It actually isn’t a ‘native’ bird to the Northern Hemisphere–it is an ‘introduced’ or escaped exotic bird.

Black swan

These swans have basically all black feathers and a red bill (with a paler pink stripe near the tip). When they’re in flight that is when you can see their white flight feathers. They also have gray-black legs and feet.

The younger swans are more of a gray-brown before they molt into their adult black feathers.

So, the black swan is actually a ‘native’ species to the southern hemisphere–specifically Australia. Where they can be spotted more in the southwestern and eastern portions of the country. They were ‘introduced’ to the northern hemisphere starting in the 1800s–either to zoos or as ornamental birds for large estates. They have managed to ‘escape’ and and establish breeding colonies throughout the northern hemisphere.

In terms of their habitat–they aren’t that picky (as long as there is plenty of vegetation–both aquatic and terrestrial for both feeding and nesting), and can be found on lakes (freshwater, brackish, or saltwater), swamps, and rivers. Within Australia, they are actually highly nomadic migratory birds that migrate in response to the weather.

The best place for trying to spot them–look to the water.

Their diet consists mostly of aquatic and marshland plants (such as algae, reedmace, and stoneworts). They are able to ‘upend’ (sticking their butts up in the air) within deep water to feed (in part due to their long necks), though for the most part they will eigher filter feed at the water’s surface (for algae), or just below the water in the shallow areas.

Three other odd facts about black swans:

About a third of all broods exhibit extra-pair paternity.

Roughly a quarter of all pairings are between males. They will then either steel nests or form temporary threesomes with females to obtain eggs and a nest.

While their numbers aren’t in decline, they are fully protected in Australia, where it is illegal to shoot them.

Photography goal: Get a picture of a black swan in Australia.