Widespread throughout much of Australia, the Black Swan is the only entirely black-coloured swan in the world. They can occur wherever there is a wetland, from river estuaries, bays and great lakes to inundated pasture and water-meadows.
In adult Black Swans the body is mostly black, with the exception of the broad white wing tips which are visible in flight. The bill is a deep orange-red, paler at the tip, with a distinct narrow white band towards the end. Younger birds are much greyer in colour, and have black wing tips. Adult females are smaller than the males.
Black Swans are found throughout Australia except for Cape York Peninsula, and are more common in the south. The Black Swan has been introduced into several countries, including New Zealand, where it is now common, and is a vagrant to New Guinea.
Black Swans prefer larger salt, brackish or fresh waterways and permanent wetlands, requiring 40m or more of clear water to take off. Outside the breeding season, Black Swans may travel quite large distances. Birds fly at night.
In some places, where the wetlands are permanent, Black Swans are sedentary, remaining throughout the year. However, where the wetlands dry out for part of the year, swans are forced to disperse over wide distances in search of suitable water, and have even been recorded swimming in isolated waterholes surrounded by vast tracts of arid stony desert.
The Black Swan is a vegetarian. Food consists of algae and weeds, which the bird obtains by plunging its long neck into water up to 1m deep.
Occasionally birds will graze on land, but they are clumsy walkers.
Black Swans form isolated pairs or small colonies in shallow wetlands. Birds pair for life, with both adults raising one brood per season. The eggs are laid in an untidy nest made of reeds and grasses.
The nest is placed either on a small island or floated in deeper water. The chicks are covered in grey plumage, and are able to swim and feed themselves as soon as they hatch. Breeding season is from February to May in the north and June to September in the south.