Black Swans and a Platypus at Tidbinbilla


Black swans (Cygnus atratus) prefer large reservoirs such as lakes and ponds with an abundance of vegetation, feeding on aquatic plants and algae by extending their long necks a meter below the water’s surface. They are large waterfowl with a wingspan of up to two meters, easily distinguishable from other birds by their jet black plumage, orange-red bill with a terminal white band, and contrasting white feathers on the underside of the wings. Monogamous pairs form during the breeding season and mate for life, though a fraction of broods have multiple paternity and long-term male/male pair-bonding is also reported. This pair joined pacific black ducks (Anas superciliosa), an Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus), and even a shy platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) to forage peacefully in the clear waters.


The platypus is a marvel in the animal world, joining echidnas as the only extant monotremes. Among their crazy assemblage of sauropsid and mammalian traits, monotromes lay eggs, secrete milk through skin pores, have a single duct (cloaca) for excretory and reproductive functions, and are hairy and lack teeth. In fact, when a platypus specimen was sent to England in 1799, naturalists first thought the creature was a hoax. Platypuses close their eyes and ears when they forage, locating arthropods by detecting their electrical fields and fine-scale movements. If only I could peek underwater to watch the platypus excavate for arthropods using its electroreceptive bill!

All animals in this post photographed in situ [1]


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