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I saw a black swan on new years day whilst walking by the river. Are they rare in the UK?

Sent in by Colin Nicholson, Wheatley, Oxfordshire

Sightings of black swans have become reasonably common. They could be found on almost any water body. They have similar habitat requirements to mute swans and are often found in the same areas.

Black swans are native to Australia and are the state bird of Western Australia. They were brought to the UK as ornamental birds like peacocks and golden pheasants. Like many other captive birds, they occasionally find their way out into the wild.

They are similar in size to the closely related mute swan. They appear all black when swimming but they have white primary wing feathers, which can be seen in flight. The bill is red with a broad white band on the tip.

Black swans were also introduced to New Zealand where a feral breeding population has become well established. The New Zealand population increased dramatically because they faced very little competition or predation.

There have been occasional reports of successful breeding attempts in the UK but they have not become established. They face competition from our native swans so it is unlikely they could become as well established here as they have in New Zealand.

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