Black Swan Fact File


The black swan is covered with black feathers across most of its body except for the primaries and outer secondary’s which are white. These can be seen in flight and may be visible when the wing is folded.

On the head there is the bright red beak which has a white spot on its top. The eye is also red.

Their feet are dark grey.

Males have a longer straighter neck and bill. The black swan has the longest neck of any swan species. Their body length can be between 1 and 1.4m (3.3-4.6ft) long. An average weight for the black swan is between 3.7 and 9kg (8-20lbs).


The black swan is primarily herbivorous though some animals may be eaten by accident. Their diet includes algae, water plants, reeds and weeds.

Most of their food is gained by dabbling in the water though occasionally they may graze on land.

black swan

Scientific Name

Cygnus atratus

Conservation Status

Least Concern


3.7-9kg (8-20lbs)


1-1.4m (3.3-4.6ft)


10-15 years



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Australia is the native home of the black swan. Here they can be found around the coastline of most of the mainland only avoiding the arid interior. They also occur in Tasmania.

Some birds may occasionally make their way to Indonesia. An introduced population exists in Spain and New Zealand.

They were naturally found in New Zealand prior to European settlement but went extinct prior to this. Humans reintroduced them to the country in the 1860s.


They make their home near water on lakes, swamps, rivers and wetlands. They are able to survive in fresh, brackish and salt water ecosystems.

black swan


Breeding season is variable across their range. In the north they breed from February to May while in the south it occurs from June to September.

Black swans are monogamous and pairs will come together each year to breed and raise their young known as cygnets.

The pair will establish a territory either encompassing a whole lake or part of the riverbank. This is defended against other pairs entering.

Their nest is formed as a large mound of vegetation and is located at the edge of the water.

In to the nest a female will deposit between 5 and 6 eggs which are a pale green color. The female carries out almost all of the incubation for its 36 day length.

At hatching the cygnets are covered in grey, downy feathers. They are capable of swimming and feeding themselves as soon as they hatch.

Within 120 days the young will fledge but they remain with their parents for a few months after this.

Sexual maturity is reached at 18 months old.

On some occasions if food is plentiful they have been known to raise two broods in a single breeding season.


Black swans primarily live in the same place but will move if their current lake dries out due to drought.

They make a range of vocalizations. These include a bugling call used when in flight or on the water. When defending their nest they will hiss.

Most of their flights occur during the night and they will rest during the day.

To take off they require a long run-up. They will splash and frantically flap to help lift their heavy body in to the air.

Flocks of black swans may form which include thousands of these birds.

black swan

Predators and Threats

Introduced predators such as dogs, cats and the red fox will hunt the black swan.

Humans have affected them through habitat destruction and feeding them bread. This can lead them to stop foraging for themselves and in some instances has led to them not teaching their young to feed.

These birds are hunted in parts of their range.

Quick facts

The black swan is the bird emblem of the state of Western Australia and appears on their flag.

A male swan is called a cob while a female is known as a pen.

They are Australia’s only native swan species.

Black swans are the only known species of entirely black swan on earth.

Photo Gallery

black swan
black swan

Photo Credits

Under License


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK 2020. Black Swan - Birds SA. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 October 2020]. 2020. Black Swan | Birdlife Australia. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 October 2020].

Murray, M., 2020. Black Swan. [online] The Australian Museum. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 October 2020]. 2020. Black Swan - Birds SA. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 October 2020].

PerthZooWebsite. 2020. Black Swan. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 October 2020].

2020. Black Swan (Cygnus Atratus). [ebook] Government of Western Australia, pp.1-2. Available at: < 2020. Black Swan - Birds SA. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 October 2020].> [Accessed 18 October 2020].

Williams, M.J. 2013. Black swan. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online.

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