|Geographical Range||Falkland Islands and southern tip of South America north to central Chile and Paraguay; winters in southeastern Brazil.|
|Habitat||Swamps, freshwater marshes, brackish lagoons, shallow lakes|
|Scientific Name||Cygnus melanocoryphus|
As its name suggests, this handsome white swan has a distinctive black neck. It also sports a bright red knob where the beak meets the head, a feature that is enlarged on males during breeding season.
Black-necked swans spend almost all of their time in water. They actually have difficulty walking on land, since their legs are set so far back on their body (to help in swimming). And though this makes it difficult to get up the speed for take-off, once the swans are in the air they are very strong flyers. Of the eight species of swan, black-neckeds are among the fastest. They’ve been clocked at speeds of nearly 50 miles per hour!
The swans are mostly vegetarian, and their bodies are well adapted to make the most of the aquatic plants they find. Their long necks help them reach plants beneath the water, including stonewarts and pondweeds. Their jagged-edge bill helps filter out the food particles from the water, and their rough tongue allows them to grasp and tear slippery plant matter.
Black-necked swans are very social and companionable most of the year, but during breeding season they become territorial and aggressive. After mating, a pair makes a nest of plant material and down feathers, then defends a large territory surrounding it. (A male and female swan usually mate for life, but will find a new partner if one should die.)
The female is the only one that sits on the eggs, and she can lose quite a lot of weight during this incubation period. Once the chicks hatch, however, both parents take good care of them. They can often be seen swimming with their babies on their back. But the male usually does most of the “childcare” duties so the female can work on regaining the weight she lost -- he even guards the nest while she leaves to feed.
Young swans are covered with light gray down feathers. Their neck feathers begin to darken at three months but they don’t get their pure white and black coat until the second year of life.
Black-necked swans are not globally threatened and their numbers are fairly stable in most parts of their range. Habitat loss, including draining of many marsh and wetland areas, continues to be the largest threat to this species.They also continue to be hunted for their down, used for clothing and cold weather bedding. And although the demand is decreasing, these swans are also hunted for food.
Did You Know?
Male swans are called cobs, females are called pens, and baby swans are known as cygnets.