The swan is native to all continents except Antartica and Africa. With the exception of the Coscoroba Swan, all are in the genus Cygnus. Swans are most suited to larger or more specialist waterfowl collections due to the nature of their temperament and requirement for space. They are a favourite in city parks, zoological gardens and country estates as easily maintained if an expanse of water is available.
The largest and most majestic of waterfowl, the swan is graceful but also the most territorial and aggressive. Cobs tend to be more aggressive than their mates and can be particularly troublesome during the breeding season. Although in a mixed collection swans may accept some smaller species such as the Hottentot Teal, they can show aggression towards, or even kill, larger companions. As a result swans are better kept in individual pairs or where extensive water is available.
Swans spend considerable time in the water, but some also graze ashore. They are voracious vegetarians and their diet in captivity should be supplemented with wheat and layers pellets. Breeders pellets are recommended in the breeding season.
Swans benefit from a long lifespan, some reaching as many as 30 years. Pair bonds are strong and swans usually mate for life. Mute, Black and Whooper Swans are prolific breeders but other species breed more sporadically.
BLACK SWANS Cygnus atratus
Black Swans are prominent in wildfowl collections across the world. Easily recognisable by their black plumage, white flights and bright red bill, the Black Swan has a proportionately longer neck than any other swan. It is a feature that makes it particularly graceful whilst afloat.
The Black Swan has a soft high-pitched bugle that is not very far reaching. It can also whistle, particularly when disturbed from nesting.
These swans are highly gregarious and may assemble in their thousands in Southern Australia and New Zealand. They are comfortable in a wide range of habitats but their preference is brackish and salt water lakes or wetlands.
Nesting tends to occur in wetter periods and can be as an individual pair or nesting in colonies. The swans build large nests in shallow water or on islands, with a typical clutch of 4-8 eggs which take 35-40 days to hatch.
BLACK-NECKED SWANS Cygnus melanocoryphus
Black-necked Swans are highly ornamental but not abundant in wildfowl collections. The largest of South American waterfowl, the Black-necked Swan is defined by its white plumage and velvety black head and neck. It has a striking blue bill with large bright red knob or caruncle at its base.
The Black-necked Swan has a soft musical whistle. It is less aggressive than its closest relatives the Mute or Black Swan, however they are known to be particularly intolerant of European Shelducks.
These swans spend the majority of their time on the water; with legs set far back on their body for greater efficiency, so they are ungainly on land. The swans' natural habitat is fresh water marshes, lagoons and shores.
Black-necked Swans frequently lay two clutches of 4-6 eggs a season, incubating for 36 days. After hatching they often carry their young cygnets on their backs.