An elaborate ritual precedes and follows mating. Either the male, or the female, may approach its mate with its neck stretched out low over the water, at times dipping it under the surface. This is a cue for its partner to respond with identical behaviour. As the two birds come together, the aquatic ballet begins in earnest. The swans now cross their necks and commence neck-dipping in synchrony for up to 20 minutes, each gracefully curved neck arched over the body of its partner. The copulation that follows this flawless choreographic routine is almost comically clumsy by comparison. The male grasps a tuft of feathers on the female’s neck for purchase and heaves himself laboriously onto her back. Given that he is considerably heavier, his weight causes her to sink beneath the surface. After a few seconds (during which insemination presumably takes place under water) the female extends her neck, calls loudly and struggles to the surface, leaving the male to slide ingloriously back into the water. John Mewett has taken a remarkable sequence of photographs (see below) documenting this mating ritual.
Posted in: Black swans