The Black Swan also known as Cygnus Atratus is quite an uncommon bird that gained its significance through a metaphor, a Lebanese writer and the bird’s homosexuality. The fact that it is a swan and is not white as all his ‘brothers’, but exactly the opposite, is intriguing. Only the South American Black-necked swan has a commonality with the black swan – its neck is black.
A Roman satirist wrote “a rare bird in the lands, and very like a black swan” by which he wanted to show that some ‘rare bird’ doesn’t exist as a black swan doesn’t. The metaphor of a black swan was also popular in other post-Roman European cultures as everyone thought that all swans just have to be white. Greatly surprised were the people when travelers going to Australia reported the existence and brought back specimens of the Black Swan.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a book called “The Black Swan” that was called one of the 12 most influential books in the last 60 years by the Times Magazine. Taleb used and in a way mocked the metaphor of Black Swans by naming unlikely (by many thought impossible) events ‘black swans’. Although it can’t be compared with Beatles selling 189 million records, Taleb sold more than one million copies.
Although being black has brought the swan quite the fame, it also has some drawbacks. As with a black cat people associate black animals with the Devil. The ones which were brought to Europe and let free could not fit in with the people as the average townsfolk often chased or killed the swans. This is why you can see those birds only in Australia and New Zealand where they were introduced.
The Black Swans inhabit large territories almost all over Australia. They usually nest near swamps or big rivers. As it is common for most of the swans, the black ones mate for life (only 6% divorce rate) and raise some chicks every year. A male swan is a cob, a female swan is a pen and a baby swan is called a cygnet. An interesting fact about black swan mating is that a quarter of the pairs are the same sex. In those cases the swans usually steal eggs or engage in threesomes, driving the ‘third one’ away when an egg is hatched.
About the appearance of the Black Swan – well it is black. Only the flight feathers are white. It’s got a red bill and greyish feet. The chicks are grey when they hatch. An adult swan can weigh up to 9 kilos (20 lbs) and the wingspan can be up to 2 meters (6.5 ft). The black swans also have the relatively longest neck among swans that is usually curved as the letter “S”. There are approximately half million black swans in the world and they are not endangered.