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Black Swan

(Cygnus atratus)
Aboriginal name(s): "koolyn", "mooroocoochin", "burbugate", "conawarre", "coonawa", "dunedoo", "goonawarra" ("koonawarra"), "koogarra", "kooraloo", "koorawarri", "kootie", "kungari", "mullewa"; "baiamul"/"baayamal" [yuwaalayaay], "barayamal" [gamilaraay], "burunda" [gamilaraay]; "koltjak", "marli", "wilar", "wanar", "woorotho", "koon-war-ror" (WA); "kelangunya", "pugherittah" (TAS)
Size: 1.1-1.4 m; wing span 1.6-2 m
Weight: 3.7-9 kg
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Black Swan at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range


Click here for sighting information




Near-frontal view of a male(?) Black Swan resting in shallow water
[Mother of Ducks Lagoon NR, NSW, March 2012]

Lateral view of a male Black Swan
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, March 2006]

The same male as shown above, now with its partner
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, March 2006]

Close-up lateral view of a male Black Swan (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, 2014]


Dorsal view of a female(?) Black Swan
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Pair of Black Swans feeding in shallow water; the female (front) has just plucked something from the mud

Life is not all black and white; there can also be the occasional speck of red
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2008]

Pair of Black Swans taking off in a hurry
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, January 2011]

When such massive birds try to lift off, one had better not get in their way... (like the Dusky Moorhen under the feet of the leading swan)
[Mother of Ducks Lagoon NR, NSW, March 2012]

Frontal view of a Black Swan in flight
[Goran Lake, NSW, June 2012]

Bird trivia question: What is THAT? Click on image to see the full picture
[Goran Lake, NSW, June 2012]


Family of Black Swans with fully grown offspring, 2nd and 3rd in line (photo courtesy of R. Russell)
[Mount Molloy, QLD, January 2015]

Two juvenile Black Swans having a good look at an Australasian Swamphen (photo courtesy of C. Lawrence)
[Commonwealth Park Lake, Canberra, ACT, September 2015]

Pair of Black Swans with three cygnets (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Pair of Black Swans with a cygnet; according to size, the male is probably the bird at the centre
(photo courtesy of M. Windeyer)
[Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, NSW, April 2016]

Adult Black Swan with cygnets (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Family of Black Swans (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Robina, Gold Coast, QLD, May 2015]

Black Swan cygnets

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jul - Sep Eggs: 5 - 6 Incubation period: 35 - 45 days Fledging age: 120 - 160 days

The breeding season depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical north Black Swans breed Feb - Apr. Given the right conditions, they can breed any time of the year.


"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Reeds Height above ground: N/A

For unknown reasons the nest shown below was later abandoned. The birds that had been observed there were subsequently not spotted any longer either, while elsewhere in the region Black Swans went about their breeding business. They returned out of the high reeds two months later, with their young.

Close-up view of a Black Swan on its nest (photo courtesy of J. Thurmer)

The person near this Black Swan nest provides a reference scale for both the size of the nest mound and the depth of water (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Macquarie Marshes NP, NSW, 1989]

Black Swan nesting on a platform surrounded by water
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

The same Black Swan as shown above, snoozing on its nest
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Here a Black Swan with a much more exposed nest (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Black Swan on its nest (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Gold Coast, QLD, August 2014]

This Black Swan built its nest in an ephemeral wetland on a grain field that subsequently fell dry again


"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 105 x 66 mm Colour: Creamy green Shape: Tapered oval

Close-up view of a Black Swan nest with 7 eggs inside (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Macquarie Marshes NP, NSW, 1989]


Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Nomadic Elementary unit: Pair/flock

Male Black Swan trying to impress a female
[New Quipolly Dam, near Quirindi, NSW, June 2019]

Family of Black Swans with three cygnets
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2010]

Like other aquatic species, Black Swans are known to carry their offspring on their backs
[Little Llangothlin NR, NSW, August 2015]

Food, Diet

Like all other geese, ducks and swans, Black Swans are vegetarian. They feed on underwater plants.

Adult Black Swan harvesting underwater (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Black Swan cygnet being fed (photo courtesy of R. Druce)


For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

blswan_20141010.mp3 (NW NSW) Warning call (human) © MD
blswan_20161218_3.m4a (NW NSW) Concert (group) © MD
blswan_20161218_2.m4a (NW NSW) ? © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

Would you like to contribute photos or sound recordings to this site?
If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.