The Black Swan

This beautiful swan

Black swans always seem to me such tranquil creatures, but also private, elusive and ever so slightly unapproachable…not in the way it looks, but just in the slightly introverted feel it gives off.

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I don’t see many black swans in St James’s Park, which is strange as I know they are there – and there in much larger numbers than some of the other species I have spotted napping casually on the side of the path.

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The Black Swan mainly breeds in south east or south western Australia. A subspecies used to be common in New Zealand called the ‘New Zealand swan’, but has since been hunted to extinction. Clearly New Zealanders do not hold the same laws against swan-hunting as we do in England, where only the Queen is permitted to grant special dispensation to kill a swan, since it is considered a Royal bird.

A white swan in Regent's Park

A white swan in Regent’s Park

According to Wikipedia, black swans (or Cygnus atratus) were introduced to England in the 1800’s as ‘ornamental’ birds in much the same way, I imagine, as peacocks once were (and still are) kept as impressive species on country estates.

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They can often be confused in Australia with the ‘magpie goose’ in flight, but can be distinguished by its slower beating wing and longer neck.


The magpie goose, source here

Like their white counterparts, the black swan is largely monogamous but, I was surprised to learn, can be subject to ‘divorces’. According to Wikipedia, the ‘divorce rate’ is 6%. Apparently swans can have marital breakdowns in much the same way as humans can. Strangely, this makes it slightly more approachable. Perhaps, it is just a troubled soul.

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