At the zoo: In Bird World
In the wild: Salt and freshwater habitats in South America
At the zoo: mainly aquatic plants
In the wild: waterfowl pellets and small fish
The black necked swan becomes extremely territorial around breeding season. This species is monogamous and usually mates for life.
Introducing Swanton the black-necked swan or Cygnus melanocoryphus. Swanton hatched on April 10, 2004.
Black-Necked swans are native to southern South America. They can also be seen on the Antarctic Peninsula. They inhabit salt water and freshwater areas, including lakes, marshes, swamps, and shielded coastal areas. Black-necked swans are known to mate for life. They build a large nest that the female will lay 4-7 eggs in. Swans lay the largest eggs of flighted birds. The female will sit and incubate the eggs for around 30 days. Once the chicks have hatched both male and female will care for the young. Young swans are called cygnets, female swans are called pens, and male swans are called cobs. After the cygnets hatch, they are completely mobile, which means they can walk, swim and eat on their own. While swimming, you may see the cygnets riding on their parents’ backs. Getting a lift from mom and dad better protects the young swans from would be predators.
Black-necked swans are the largest of the South American waterfowl, but they are still capable of flying. They can fly long distances and reach speeds up to 50 mph. While they are great fliers, they are less mobile on land and may be slow to get around.
Have you ever wondered why swans have such long elegant necks? This is because swans have 24-25 vertebrae while the majority of mammals only have seven. What is the difference between a swan, a goose, and a duck? Though there are many similarities between the three groups who come from the same family there are actually several noticeable differences that make them different from one another. Swans are larger with an S shaped curved neck. They are not sexually dimorphic meaning the males and females look same. Female swans are the only ones that incubate the eggs, while the male guards the nest. After the cygnets hatch, their feathers are white or greyish in color. Geese are also not sexually dimorphic. They have a smaller body and neck length than swans. Both male and female geese incubate the eggs and the goslings usually hatch with yellow feathers. Ducks are often sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females look different, think of mallards. They are smaller than geese and swans. Ducks also dive or dabble for food, while geese are more land dwelling and usually eat vegetation off the ground.
To make it easier for Swanton to get his meals he has a bowl that is floats in the water. This bowl is filled with a specialized pellet diet for waterfowl and finely chopped romaine lettuce. On occasion, Swanton’s keepers will toss whole leaves into the water for him, but he seems to prefer the chopped romaine. Don’t forget to visit Swanton near the exit of Bird World. You can’t miss him. If you try to sneak by he will let you know he sees you by calling out. Don’t be alarmed - he does this to almost everyone!