The Black Swan - A Western Australian Icon
Two thousand years ago the Roman Poet, Juvenal, used the notion of a “Black Swan” as a metaphor for something that was so improbable that it was essentially impossible (“Pigs might Fly”) because Europeans knew of only white swans. Then in January 1697, the Dutch explorer, Willem de Vlamingh, sailed up a river on the West coast of Australia and discovered the impossible bird and named the waterway after it – The Swan River. Subsequently the Black Swan has become synonymous with Western Australia, appearing on its Coat of Arms and adopted as the State’s bird emblem in 1973.
Of course the indigenous people of Australia had known of the Black Swan for tens of thousands of years prior to even Juvenal. Aboriginal lore tells of how the ancestors of the Noongar people were once swans who became men and the Wilson Inlet is known to them as Koorabup – place of the Black Swan.
The Black Swan, despite its name, is not all black, it has white Primary and Secondary wing feathers, perhaps so that it can be more easily seen in flight when the light is poor and hence followed (the reverse of the migratory Snow Goose – a white goose with black primary wing feathers).
The Black Swan is a vegetarian and arrives on the Wilson inlet in October to feed on sea-grass. Hundreds of birds can be seen feeding on the Western side of the lake, south of Poddyshot and also in shallow water from the Hay River to Young’s Lake, again feeding on the sea-grass.
These elegant Swans with their musical, bugle-like call grace the Wilson Inlet for much of the Year, long may it be Koorabup.