Nothing is more endearing that a Black Swan and its chicks. The striking adult bird (Cygnus atratus) and its cygnets covered in grey down make a common but beautiful sight in Spring in the Gippsland Lakes and are the subject of the #2 Bird Photography Challenge.
What does it look like?
The Black Swan has a black plumage with white flight feathers visible when it spreads its wings, a red bill with a white bar and pale pink tip. The legs and feet are greyish black. The neck is long and curved in an S shape. A mature black swan measures about 110-140cms and has a wingspan for 1.6 to 2m. So this is a large waterbird.
Did you know?
Black Swans moult. They lose all their flight feathers at once after breeding and are unable to fly for about a month!
How does it behave?
Black Swans are monogamous. The male and female share incubation duties and cygnet rearing between them. The cygnets may ride on their parents’ back, but are able to swim and feed themselves as soon as they hatch, although they don’t stray very far from mum, as you can see in this picture.
A herbivorous, it feeds on aquatic and marsh plants and algae. You can observe it dipping the neck down in the water to one meter below the surface in shallow areas, and “up-ending” (bottoms up) to reach food in deeper areas.
Anyone who has watched a Black Swan take-off knows it is a heavy, awkward, high energy affair. It requires 40m or more of clear water to launch. But once aloft it can travel quite large distances.
Where is it found?
The Black Swan breeds mainly in the South East and South West of Australia. It is common in wetlands, but is nomadic, in response to rainfall or drought. Its preferred habitat extends across fresh, brackish and salt water lakes, swamps and rivers.
The photos were taken in the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, with a Canon 60D camera, using either a Canon 100-300mm lens, or a Tamron 18-270mm lens. Click on any image to display in full screen.