In May 2005 Black Swans paddled serenely in the waters off Saunders Beach.
Saunders Beach with its mangroves, sandy dunes and tidal variations possesses an ideal habitat for seabirds and migratory waders. At different times of the year a beach walker sees Eastern Curlews, red-billed Pied Oystercatchers and stately Pacific Reef Egrets, amongst others. Overhead Brahminy Kites soar and wheel and Australian Pelicans swoop down to settle on the water.
Black Swans – Cygnus atratus – are found throughout Australia but are more common in the south of the continent. They feed on aquatic plants both in the sea and in wetland areas where they can reach the bottom with their long necks. They prefer waterways with abundant vegetation and are nomadic birds with no set migratory pattern. Generally Black Swans mate for life and their breeding season in these parts is from February to May. They may travel great distances (usually at night) depending on patterns of rainfall or drought. For example in periods of high rainfall they often move inland.
During the day they tend to be at rest, as in the Saunders Beach photograph above. These Black Swans probably flew or paddled from Townsville’s Town Common, about ten kilometres by sea from Saunders Beach.
Nowadays the Town Common is a 3,245 hectares conservation park, comprising several bird hides, walking and mountain bike tracks and forest and wetland walks. The Town Common had its beginnings in 1868 when thirty-seven freehold land owners of the Townsville Municipality petitioned the Queensland Colonial Government for an ‘urgently’ needed ‘township common’. The following year it was proclaimed.
From the early days of the Town Common the Queensland Government’s Wildlife Online has fourteen records for Black Swans. The Black Swan’s Queensland conservation status rating is C, least concern, the under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. The other ratings are: Extinct in the Wild (PE), Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Near Threatened (NT), or Not Protected ( ).
Black Swans are commonly sighted on Townsville’s Lake Ross, approximately thirty kilometres overland from Saunders Beach. They’ve also been spotted on the Atherton Tableland, about 300 kilometres north-north-west of Saunders Beach.
Have you spotted Black Swans on the sea or in flight? Please let us know with a comment.
Sometimes Black Swans have fun as this link shows:
Lanette West said:
I am looking forward to perhaps seeing some Black Swans at Saunders Beach, it is very interesting to know that these majestic birds visit us here in North Qld and can also be seen at the Town Common and Lake Ross. They make a lovely picture floating serenely on the water.
This past week the seas have been calm and the air sunny and light, like 2005 when the photo was taken. Here’s hoping for another appearance!
John Turnbull said:
Having the luxury of sitting on my veranda at Saunders Beach the other day casually looking out to sea I spied what I believed to be a dark line of flotsam a couple of kilometers off shore in the direction of Rattlesnake Island. My curiosity aroused I retreated inside to collect my binoculars. Returning to find that the flotsam had drifted a considerable distance. Focusing the binoculars I was surprised to see a line of a half dozen or more black swans paddling (that is if swans paddle) toward Toolakea. I followed their progress for some time incredulous at the sight and wishing to confirm in my own mind what I did not think possible, in my understanding that swans did not enter the sea and wondering why that had not chosen the more efficient alternative of flight. But there they were and as if to put my mind at rest a pair flew along the beach last Sunday as the Saunders Beach paddlers in their out rigger canoe made their way along the beach.