Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Species Spotlight: Black-Necked Swan

By Erika Zambello

Walk into Duke Gardens any given day and you might hear an unfamiliar bugling reverberating around the hills and trees in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum pond. That unique call belongs to one of the Gardens' most notable residents, the black-necked swan (Cygnus melanocorypha).

Native black-necked swans hail from southern South America. Habitat-wise, the swans prefer swamps, freshwater marshes, lagoons, coastal areas and shallow lakes and ponds. Though they look big, the swans rarely grow to be larger than 14 pounds. Don't let their weight fool you, though; like other swans, the black-necked have large wings and tough bills and are not afraid to use them to defend themselves.

One of the most distinctive features of black-necked swans is a red, bulbous knob where their bills meet their heads. Both male and female swans have this knob, which enlarges in males during the breeding seasons. Their other distinctive feature, of course, is their long black head and neck; they are the only swans in the world with black heads.

While swans will eat a variety of different organisms in the wild, including pond plants, weeds, algae, insects, and even small minnows, Duke Gardens' swan subsists mostly on the healthy diet our staff feeds the waterfowl on a daily basis. If you want to feed our swan, feel free to purchase the healthy pellets from the Gardens' Terrace Shop!

For more information on Black-Necked Swans check out this great fact-sheet from the Sacramento Zoological Society.

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello recently graduated from Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment with a degree in Ecosystem Science and Conservation.