An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. Black_swan_by_birds_as_poetry-001-davidjenkins Black Swan landing by D. Jenkins
  2. Black_swan_and_chicks_by_marj_k Black swan and cygnets (chicks) by Marj K.
  3. Black_swans_on_nest_by_marj_k-1 Black swan on nest by Marj K.
  4. _cw_user__black_swan_cygnus_atratus_allya_syahrudi Photo taken by ClimateWatcher Allya Syahrudi

Black Swan

Cygnus atratus


  • Colour: Adults have a black body and neck with white wing tips, black legs and a red bill with white bar near tip. Male carries head higher than female in mated pair and has darker bill and iris. Juveniles are lighter in colour and cygnets have grey-brown plumage. 
  • Size: body length 110 - 140 cm; wingspan 160 - 200 cm 


  • Call: Musical fluting, trumpeting heard during nocturnal flight. Aggressive hissing. 
  • Diet: Mainly algae and weeds, plunging neck up to 1m deep. Occasional grazing on land.
  • Breeding: Monogamous pairing for life. Nesting on large mounds which are re-used each year. One brood per season with 4-7 greenish white eggs. 

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating (Monogamous mating pairs, possibility of homosexual pairs with a female surrogate in a threesome)
  • Calling
  • Feeding
  • Chicks
  • Bird on eggs
  • Bird on nest
  • Nest building

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect birds to alter their timing of breeding as a result of climate change warming the Earth and associated changes in the hydrological system.

When To Look

Year round; Breeds April - October in the south, March - May in Northeast Queensland but can breed any month after suitable rain.

Where To Look

  • Throughout Australia in large expanses of fresh and brackish waters with abundant aquatic vegetation
  • Also found in exposed mudflats, flooded pasture and crop lands, ornamental lakes, permanent wetlands.
  • Requires 40m clearance to take off.
  • Outside breeding season will travel large distances, flying mostly by night.
 Black Swan compiled distribution map - BirdLife International

Black Swan compiled distribution map - BirdLife International

Where To Look

Maps of Habitat Suitability


Current probability
of occurrence
2070 probability
of occurrence (RCP 8.5)
Species range change from
current to 2070 probability

Above, the left and middle maps show the modelled habitat suitability for the the species under current and potential future climate conditions. The colours indicate the predicted habitat suitability from low (white) to high (dark red).

The future habitat suitability is modelled for the year 2070 under a climate change scenario that represents 'business as usual' (RCP 8.5). The map on the right shows how the range of the species might change between now and 2070, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, green areas where the species range might expand, and blue areas where the habitat is predicted to be suitable for the species now and in the future.

The models for this species were run in the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory. Please note that while models can be very informative, they are only a representation of the real world and thus should always be viewed with caution. You can read more about the science behind these models here.



Simpson K, Day N & Trusler P 2004. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Viking, Camberwell, Victoria.

Pringle JD 1985. The Waterbirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.

Braithwaite LW 1981. "Ecological studies of the Black Swan III – Behaviour and social organization". Australian Wildlife Research 8: 134–146. doi:10.1071/WR9810135



  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    In poor lighting and at distance, the Black Swan may be confused with a Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata in flight. However, the Black Swan has a much longer neck and slower wing beat. On the ground, the Magpie Goose is white on the rump, belly, mantle and upper wings where the Black Swan would be black.

  1. Did You Know?

    The Black Swan is the only entirely black-coloured swan in the world.