Tuesday 23 December 2014

Black Swans

Picking up the bill
We have known for some time that a local lake is home to a pair of black swans. Last month we made our first effort to see them. It was well worth the wait. They are magnificent birds. 

Although the lake is quite near the road it was totally deserted. The birds elegantly sailed towards us across a sixty meter stretch of water. They did not quite complete their welcome when they discerned we had not brought any food. And nor should we feed them when a healthy diet for them is aquatic plants and apparently at times of flood, grass and other such vegetation. Their elegant long necks are used to scoop out weeds from deep water  and yet at other times they can filter feed on surface greenery.

naughty naughty

Thank you Cathi for most of today’s pictures.

When you try to find information on the net about black swans you find multiple references to pubs and commercial enterprises but little about real black swans - entries are as rare as black swans! This phrase has entered the language to describe unexpected events. It has grown into ‘black swan theory’ which describes surprising but often very significant anomalies in scientific research, unanticipated consequences of economic and government policy and indeed inconvenient data that the authorities choose to ignore. Ignominy descends on scientists discovered hiding black swans. 

Black swans have proportionately longer necks than white swans

They frequently live in monogamous pairs
Black swans are not native to the UK. They are an antipodean bird and are relatively abundant in Australia. They were hunted to extinction in New Zealand but have been reintroduced. I believe that because some are thought to have flown there, they can be regarded as native! 

Sometimes when traveling in deep water their young hitch a ride. I wonder if we might say this is their cigneture! 

The males are called cobs and the ladies are pens. Sometimes pairs consist of two cobs and sometimes two pens! 
Our own UK black swans are usually domesticated and no doubt our local ones have, as opportunistic migrators, had their wings clipped. There are instances of UK black swans escaping and breeding in the wild. Let’s hope our paranoia about immigrants does not drive them away.

They utter a musical, bugle-like cry 
Thank you Cathi for this video


  1. Gorgeous pictures of black swans and thanks for the story.

  2. I wish we had some of those on Fleet pond! Lovely birds.

  3. Lovely images. We often see black swans at the local RSPB reserve. A friend once told me that she had seen a bird that looked like a swan but that it was black, She asked if I knew what it was. Swans don't seem to hybridise like ducks do - do they? Although there is a species of swan that is white with a black neck imaginatively dammed a black necked swan.

    A warden at a reserve once told me if a swan raises its wings keep clear as a blow from the wing can break a back - he had a friend paralysed by one, Beautiful and graceful but powerful birds,

    1. PS Hope that you didn't try riding one :)

    2. As to your first question there are references to hybridisation in captivity but they seem somewhat vague.
      Black swans will appear in my hybridity series but as examples of ignored evidence by neo Darwinians!

  4. Really digging into my memory here Roger but the first full-time job I had was at Fog Lane Park Manchester circa.1963 where we had a pair of Black Swans which I think were a gift to the city of Manchester from Australia, possibly Perth. I remember some years later reading that they had been killed, I think, by vandals but can't quite remember the exact circumstances. I do remember that we always gave them a wide berth as they were certainly not as user friendly as your examples!

    1. Perhaps they were aggressive Rick because they suffered ignorant abuse in a suburban park.
      I remember you have told me that your early parks experience coincided with my own. In Hartlepool we just had ducks!

  5. Visited my Mother's family on Rathen Road in 1954, when I was five. One of my memories remaining from that is of the black swans on the lake at Fog Lane. They were scary if we didn't bring bread. Someone must be keeping a tradition alive.


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