21st of November 2014 – Species Spotlight Black Swan

black swan cygnets 1 - 21st of November 2014 - Species Spotlight Black Swan

This week we take the chance to look at a species that has recently returned to the park
Black Swan
Cygnus atratus
black swan cygnets 150x150 - 21st of November 2014 - Species Spotlight Black Swan
We recently took delivery of a young pair of Black Swan from WWT Martin Mere having lost our remaining male at the start of the year.  As we have some tress surgery going on at present they remain off show for the time being
Black Swans are native to Australia, where they are common in the South and East.  They are also found in Tasmania and have been reintroduced to New Zealand, having become extinct there.  As an ornamental waterfowl they are coming kept by European Aviculturists and escapes do and have occurred (not from us!)  There is a small breeding population in the UK, most noticeably in Dawlish, Devon.  They are of least concern.
Being waterfowl means that their preferred habitat is on and around water, where they can feed and breed.  Occasionally they are found swimming out at sea.  Their diet is made up of aquatic and marshland vegetation, and they can be often seen tipping themselves so the backside is in the air whilst the head and neck reach for submerged plants.
As with all swans, males are larger than females and have a longer, straighter bill which is red in colour. As the name suggests, much of the body is black, save for white primary feathers on the wings.
Pairs are generally monogamous, staying together for live.  The nest is a large mound of vegetation and built by both adults (our old pair used to prefer nest out of sight under the play area bridge!).  As many as 8 turquoise eggs are laid and incubated by both the cob (male) & pen (female).  Incubation lasts around 35-40 days and starts once the final egg is laid, allowing them to hatch en masse.  The nest is defended aggressively.  The cygnets hatch and can swim almost immediately, under close supervision from the adults.  When they get tired they can hitch a lift, sitting on the back of mum or dad.  They will become independent at 9 months
black swan nest 1 150x150 - 21st of November 2014 - Species Spotlight Black Swan
The plan for our young pair is for them to go on the stretch of river along by the gift shop.  At present there is some pretty large tree work going on in that area so they will remain off show until this is complete.  As they are both young birds we will have to shut them in every night as they adjust to the cold weather and so we have no problems overnight, with neither of them experiencing a river before!
With the tree work, we have also had to move the Marabou Stork, he has gone into the small holding pen along the canal, between the Rheas and Stanley Crane paddocks.  The Demoiselle Crane we hold there has gone into the cafe aviary for now.
The Crowned Plovers have at least one egg in the shed
We have moved the 2 Pied Imperial Pigeons from the boulevard aviaries into the round aviary by the lower end of the penguins
We have also had to move the female Grey Peacock Pheasant as this years chick ( a young male) has been hassling her
The female Edwards Pheasant has been moved into her aviary but not yet introduced to the male
Penguin chick web cam has been turned off as little chick is now too big for the camera. He/she has been spending time outside this week with no problems.  We have also had someone in doing some thermal imaging of the penguins, looking forward to seeing the results
There are now noticeable numbers of winter thrushes around with Redwing and Fieldfare moving in from the North.  A large number of Black Headed Gulls & Pigeons may suggest it is going to cold this winter.  The penguins are also eating a lot for this time of year so you have been warned!
Tomorrow should see the arrival of 11 new birds (not new species) so check back next week for all the news

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