Nikon D700 & Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 lens
The Black Swan is common in the wetlands of south western and eastern Australia and adjacent coastal islands. In the south west the range ecompasses an area between North West Cape, Cape Leeuwin and Eucla; while in the east it covers are large region bounded by the Atherton Tableland, the Eyre Peninsula and Tasmania, with the Murray Darling Basin supporting very large populations of Black Swans. It is uncommon in central and northern Australia.
The Black Swan’s preferred habitat extends across fresh, brackish and salt water lakes, swamps and rivers with underwater and emergent vegetation for food and nesting materials. Permanent wetlands are preferred, including ornamental lakes, but Black Swans can also be found in flooded pastures and tidal mudflats, and occasionally on the open sea near islands or the shore.
Black Swans were once thought to be sedentary, but the species is now known to be highly nomadic. There is no set migratory pattern, but rather opportunistic responses to either rainfall or drought. In high rainfall years, emigration occurs from the south west and south east into the interior, with a reverse migration to these heartlands in drier years. When rain does fall in the arid central regions, Black Swans will migrate to these areas to nest and raise their young. However, should dry conditions return before the young have been raised, the adult birds will abandon the nests and their eggs or cygnets and return to wetter areas.
Black Swans, like many other water fowl, lose all their flight feathers at once when they moult after breeding, and they are unable to fly for about a month (This time may vary). During this time they will usually settle on large, open waters for safety.
The species has a large range, with figures between one to ten million km² given as the extent of occurrence. The current global population is estimated to be up to 500,000 individuals. No threat of extinction, or significant decline in population has been identified with this numerous and widespread bird.
Black Swans were first seen by Europeans in 1697, when Willem de Vlamingh’s expedition explored the Swan River, Western Australia.
Before the arrival of the Māori in New Zealand, a subspecies of the Black Swan known as the New Zealand Swan had developed in the islands, but was apparently hunted to extinction. In 1864, the Australian Black Swan was introduced to New Zealand as an ornamental waterfowl, and populations are now common on larger coastal or inland lakes, especially Rotorua Lakes, Lake Wairarapa and Lake Ellesmere, and the Chatham Islands. Black Swans have also naturally flown to New Zealand, leading scientists to consider them a native rather than exotic species, although the present population appears to be largely descended from deliberate introductions.
The Black Swan is also very popular as an ornamental waterbird in western Europe, especially Britain, and escapes are commonly reported. As yet the population in Britain is not considered to be self-sustaining and so the species is not afforded admission to the official British List but the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have recorded a maximum of nine breeding pairs in the UK in 2001, with an estimate of 43 feral birds in 2003/04.
A colony of black swans in Dawlish, Devon has become so well associated with the town that the bird has been the town’s emblem for forty years.