Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman
One of the most unique members of the Anatidae family, the Black-necked Swan is one of two swan species native to South America. Black-necked Swans are found from southern Brazil, south to Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. Since their legs are set so far back on the body, making land travel awkward, they spend a great deal of time in large bodies of water. Although still rather expensive, they are becoming quite popular in captivity and many are produced each year.
As their name states, they have a long black neck on a white body. The bill is gray with a bright red lobe or caruncle on the base of the bill. A white line also extends from the bill to the eye. The male (cob) and female (pen) are similiar in appearance, but males are about a third larger than the females and the red lobe on the bill appears somewhat larger and brighter. Immature swans are gray, but attain their adult colors the second year. The lobe on the bill may not reach its full size until the birds are three or four years old.
In the wild, the breeding season begins in July and extends through November. In the northern hemisphere, they usually begin to lay as early as late January, so care must be taken to ensure that the eggs will not freeze if you live in a cold climate. The nests are close to water in thick vegetation. Provide lots of straw and shavings for the birds to cover the eggs. Clutch sizes vary from three to seven eggs and are incubated by only the pen for about 36 days. The male stands guard over the nest while she sets, sometimes going days before leaving to eat.
The cygnets are whitish-gray, with a black bill and feet. Black-necked Swans are great parents if allowed to rear their young. Sometimes, the cygnets will hitch a ride on Mom or Dad's back!! Some breeders choose to remove the cygnets to allow the pair to double clutch. As mentioned, the immatures will gain their adult plumage the second year, but many will not breed until they are three or four.
Black-necked Swans are highly prized aviary birds. They have a good temperment, which means keeping them with other waterfowl is possible. Pairs may squabble during the breeding season, so allow only one pair per area. They are more delicate than other swans, and winter shelter must be provided. This species prefers a larger source of water.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2009).
Above: Black-necked swan with cygnets
Above: a pair of Black-necked swans with cygnets
Above: a pair of Black-necked swans