Articles on this page are available in 1 other language: Arabic (18) (learn more)

Overview

Distribution

Cygnus atratus, commonly known as black swans, are native to Australia (including Tasmania) and have been introduced to New Zealand, Europe, and North America. Black swans are found mainly in the wetlands of southern Australia and tend to avoid the northern tropics. They can also be found in across the rest of southern Australia, and in the southeast of Tasmania. After being introduced to Europe as pets, they can now be found there in the wild.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); palearctic (Introduced ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Introduced )

  • Delacour, J. 1954. Waterfowl of the World. London: Country Life Limited.
  • del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, J. Sargatal. 1992. Black Swan. Pp. 578 in Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 1, 1st Edition. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range

Australia and Tasmania; introduced New Zealand.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Swans are the largest of all waterfowl. Black swans' closest relatives are mute swans (Cygnus olor). Cygnus atratus has the classical swan look with a long arched neck and raised eyebrows. As the name implies they are mostly black. Some of the wing feathers are white. They also have reddish or pinkish irises and richly colored red bills with a white line. The juveniles are greyish brown with light tipped feathers and a lighter colored bill. As with many birds, there is sexual dimorphism where the male (called a "cob") is slightly larger than the female (called a "pen").

When they are fully grown they have a length of 110 to 140 cm and weigh between 3700 to 8750 g. The wingspan ranges between 160 to 200 cm.

Range mass: 3700 to 8700 g.

Range length: 1.1 to 1.4 m.

Range wingspan: 160 to 200 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Johnsgard, P. 1965. Handbook of Waterfowl Behavior. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Black swans live in lakes, rivers and swampland, which can be fresh, salt or brackish water. They prefer habitats with aquatic vegetation. While their natural habitat is aquatic they are sometimes found in terrestrial areas such as dry pastures or flooded fields when food is scarce.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; coastal ; brackish water

Wetlands: swamp

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian ; estuarine

  • Forshaw, J. 1998. Aniseriformes. Pp. 84 in Encyclopedia of Birds, Vol. 1, 2nd Edition. McMahons Point, N.S.W.: Weldon Owen.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Cygnus atratus eats sub-aquatic foliage that it can reach under water using its long neck. It is herbivorous, eating vegetation and plants either in the water or on land in pastures or on farm land. Some common aquatic plants that they feed on are: Typha, Potamogeton, Myriophyllum, Ruppia and algae. Occasionally they also eat insects.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: leaves; algae

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Black swans are important members of thier eosystem both as a predator and as prey for other species.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Black swans flap their wings which produce loud noises and threaten predators with their necks erect and bills pointed down. Eggs are taken by Australian ravens, common rats and golden-bellied water rats, swamp harriers, white-bellied sea eagles, and other hawks. Fledglings are preyed on by swamp harriers, white-bellied sea eagles, quolls, golden-bellied water rats, and sometimes gulls and terns.

Known Predators:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Known prey organisms

Cygnus atratus preys on:
algae
Insecta

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© SPIRE project

Source: SPIRE

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Black swans use calls and visual signals to communicate. They have advertisment calls used in territorial defense and specific calls used in Triumph Ceremonies. They have a high pitched, weak voice. They also use visual displays to communicate such as raising their shoulders or flapping their wings to threaten predators or other swans in their territory.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Other Communication Modes: duets

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Black swans have been known to live for forty years in the wild.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
40 (high) years.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Black swans are monogamous and often have the same mate for life. They are territorial and stay in solitary pairs when mating but are known to occasionally mate in colonies. The threatening behavior of black swans is similar to mute swans; they both flap and wave their wings with two or three strokes followed by a call. However, the wings of black swans make a louder sound than mute swans. Also the standing stance is different; black swans hold their necks erect with a downward point of the bill and ruffled feathers.

One particularly interesting thing about the courting behavior of black swans is the "Triumph Ceremony". It is used to strengthen pair-bonds between mates, between parents and cygnets (baby swans), and for threatening territorial displays. The male swan approaches the female swan with wings and chin lifted, calling repeatedly. Then the female returns the same call. They then dip their heads alternating with erect postures. After this the birds call with their necks outstretched and bills pointed upward; then they hold their necks at a forty five degree angle and point their bills downward and at a right angle, they proceed to swim in a circle. These ceremonies are primarily initated by the male and tend to increase in frequency when there are more swans around.

Mating System: monogamous

The breeding season is from February through September. Usually the female (occasionally the male) makes a nest of sticks, dead leaves and debris into a floating mound on top of the water. Each female may lay between 5 to 6 eggs, the eggs are laid one day apart. There is a 35 to 48 day incubation period which begins when all the eggs have been laid. Males are known to help with incubation. Chicks are precocial but are brooded on the nest for 2 to 3 weeks after hatching. They fledge from 150 to 170 days after hatching. They remain in family groups for about 9 months and are able to fly at around 6 months old. The chicks are sexually mature in 18 to 36 months. Young black swans join juvenile flocks for one to two years before they begin breeding.

Breeding interval: Black swans can breed repeatedly throughout the breeding season.

Breeding season: The breeding season is from February through September.

Range eggs per season: 5 to 6.

Range time to hatching: 35 to 48 days.

Range fledging age: 150 to 170 days.

Average time to independence: 12 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 18 to 36 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 18 to 36 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; oviparous

Both male and female black swans incubate the eggs. Chicks are precocial and can swim and feed soon after hatching. They may ride on their parents' backs when they venture into deep water. The chicks can fly in 2 months, but they remain in the family group until the next breeding season. Juvenile black swans often form flocks until they find a mate.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; precocial ; pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Delacour, J. 1954. Waterfowl of the World. London: Country Life Limited.
  • Forshaw, J. 1998. Aniseriformes. Pp. 84 in Encyclopedia of Birds, Vol. 1, 2nd Edition. McMahons Point, N.S.W.: Weldon Owen.
  • Johnsgard, P. 1965. Handbook of Waterfowl Behavior. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates.
  • Kraaijeveld, K., R. Mulder. 2002. The Functions of the Triumph Ceremonies in the Black Swan. Behavior, 139(1): 45-54.
  • The Chaffee Zoo. Date Unknown. "Black Swan" (On-line). Accessed April 06, 2004 at http://www.chaffeezoo.org/animals/blackSwan.html.
  • Wilmore, S. 1974. Swans of the World. New York, New York: Taplinger Publishing Co..
  • del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, J. Sargatal. 1992. Black Swan. Pp. 578 in Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 1, 1st Edition. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Cygnus atratus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AACCGATGACTATTTTCCACTAACCACAAAGATATCGGCACCCTATACCTTGTCTTCGGAGCATGGGCAGGAATAGTCGGCACCGCACTC---AGCCTGTTAATCCGCGCAGAACTGGGACAACCAGGAACCCTGCTAGGCGAC---GACCAAATTTACAATGTAATCGTCACCGCCCACGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTCATGCCCATTATGATCGGAGGATTCGGCAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTTATG---ATCGGCGCCCCCGACATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAATAACATAAGCTTTTGACTCCTCCCACCGTCATTCCTACTGCTATTGGCCTCATCTACCGTAGAAGCCGGTGCCGGCACAGGCTGAACTGTCTACCCACCCCTAGCAGGTAACCTAGCCCACGCCGGAGCCTCAGTAGACCTG---GCCATTTTCTCGCTTCACTTGGCCGGTGTTTCCTCCATCCTTGGGGCTATTAACTTTATTACCACAGCCATCAACATAAAACCTCCCGCACTCTCACAGTACCAGACCCCACTATTCGTCTGATCCGTCCTAATTACCGCCATCCTACTCCTCCTATCACTCCCCGTACTCGCCGCA---GGTATCACAATACTACTAACCGACCGAAACCTGAACACCACATTCTTCGACCCCGCCGGAGGGGGTGACCCAATCCTGTACCAACACCTGTTCTGATTTTTCGGACACCCAGAAGTCTACATTCTAATCTTACCCGGATTCGGAATCATCTCGCACGTAGTCACGTACTACTCAGGCAAAAAA---GAACCATTCGGCTACATAGGAATAGTCTGAGCCATATTATCAATTGGATTCCTTGGATTTATCGTCTGAGCCCATCACATATTTACAGTAGGAATGGACGTTGATACCCGAGCCTACTTTACATCAGCTACTATAATCATTGCCATCCCCACCGGAATCAAAGTATTTAGCTGGCTA---GCCACCCTGCACGGAGGA---ACAATTAAATGAGACCCCCCAATACTATGAGCCCTAGGATTTATTTTCCTATTTACCATCGGAGGACTAACAGGAATCGTCCTTGCAAACTCCTCCCTAGACATCGCCCTACACGACACATATTACGTAGTTGCCCACTTCCACTACGTC---CTTTCCATGGGCGCCGTATTTGCCATTCTAGCGGGATTCACTCACTGATTCCCACTCCTCACCGGATTTACCCTGCACCAGACATGAGCAAAAGCCCACTTCGGAGTAATATTCACAGGAGTAAATCTAACATTCTTCCCTCAGCACTTCCTAGGCCTAGCAGGAATGCCCCGA---CGATACTCGGACTACCCCGATGCCTACACA---CTATGAAACACCGTTTCCTCCATCGGCTCCCTAATCTCAATAGTAGCCGTAATTATACTGATATTCATCATCTGAGAAGCCTTCTCAGCCAAGCGAAAAGTC---CTACAACCAGAGCTAACCGCCACAAAC
-- end --

Download FASTA File

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cygnus atratus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

Currently, black swans are not suffering from population declines. Populations range from the thousands up to tens of thousands in New South Wales.

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Population

Population
The global population is estimated to number c.100,000-1,000,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while the population in Japan has been estimated at c.100-10,000 introduced breeding pairs (Brazil 2009).

Population Trend
Stable
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Black swans are common crop pests, either destroying vegetation or uprooting it. In order to help control black swan populations, a hunting season has been established in some areas.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Humans benefit from black swans because they eat their eggs and keep them as pets. They are also popular among birdwatchers.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food ; ecotourism

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!