Scientific Name: Cygnus melancoryphus
Male swans are called pens, females are called cobs, and baby swans are known as cygnets.
The legs on the black-necked swan make it an incredible swimmer and also make them awkward walkers when on land. Even though this makes them slow to take-off, the black-necked swan is one of the fastest swans when in flight, with some individuals traveling at around 50 mph.
STATUS: The black-necked swan is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
HABITAT: This species is indigenous to the lakes, swamps, marshes, and lagoons of southern South America, extending from the tip to as far north as central Chile.
DIET: The black-necked swan is a vegetarian, feeding on the vegetation around its watery habitat, including under the surface of the water. This swan has a special jagged edge on its bill that helps it tear through tough or slippery vegetation.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: The black-necked swan is the smallest species of swan, ranging from 40 to 55 inches tall and weighing between 8 and 15 pounds, with males being slightly larger than the females. This species is all white, except for the neck which, true to its name, is black in color. These birds also have a red knob located at junction of the beak and head, and this knob increases in size on males during the breeding season. The juveniles, or cygnets, of this species have a light grey plumage for about three months until their neck feathers begin to darken. However, it takes over a year for the swan to develop its pure white and black colors as an adult. The legs of the swan are positioned farther back on the underside of the torso, allowing for better maneuverability ad speed while the bird is in water. On land, this position makes them awkward, unbalanced walkers and therefore they prefer to spend the majority of their time in the water where they can seem as graceful as a swan.
The Legendary Swan
Due to their very attractive and often pure white coloring, swans have been the centers of numerous tales of legend and mythology. Tales such as “The Ugly Duckling” and other mythological references use the beautiful appearance of the swan to represent superhuman divinity and purity, such as the myth that Zeus came in the form of a swan to mate with Leda, Queen of Troy, to create Helen of Troy. Other myths put the swan on an innocent pedestal, condemning all those who kill it to a lifetime of misery and bad-fortune. In Hinduism, the swan is believed to be a connection to the physical world without becoming connected to it, due to the special characteristic of the swan’s feathers to never seem to get wet even though the swan spends most of its time in water. Throughout history and over countless generations, the swan has been a symbol of purity and beauty, and even though the black-necked swan is not of pure white like more well-known swans, it is still a legendary bird noteworthy of its own special beauty.