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The Black swan (Cygnus atratus) is not common in Britain, where white Mute swans predominate, but they can still be seen here. Like peacocks, they were introduced to join the collections of exotic birds adorning the parks and estates of the wealthy, and some have since escaped those boundaries.

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Many people think of the Black swan as an Australian bird – it is, after all, both are the state symbol and the state emblem of Western Australia. However, scientists have discovered that the Black swan was present in New Zealand at the time of first human settlement, but had been hunted to extinction by the time Europeans first arrived in the early 1800s. In the 1860s, they were deliberately reintroduced from Australia and, judging by how quickly the local population grew, they may, at the same time, also have re-colonised New Zealand naturally – flown or been blown across the Tasman Sea from Australia.

The Black swan’s Latin name atratus means ‘to be clothed in black for mourning’. Perhaps that’s why some people believe it to be a harbinger of bad luck. Personally, I think the swan dressed all in black is a very stylish and elegant-looking bird (except, perhaps, when it’s doing its morning exercises 😉 ).

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