Oct 30 2009
My sister’s house overlooks a salt marsh in coastal Virginia. From her back windows she can see a host of birds I never see at home: bald eagles, osprey and great egrets, to name a few. Mary isn’t a bird watcher but sometimes she sees something unusual and asks me what it is. This week she wrote: “A large bird – like a goose – I don’t know – has been hanging out at our marsh for the past 4 weeks by himself and he is all black except for under his tail or wing. Mom and Dad saw it yesterday and didn’t know what it was either.”
Based on that description I sent her some photo links of brants and greater white-fronted geese. She wrote back, “Nope isn’t that…I looked again with binoculars (wish they were stronger but they are not). It has a long neck like a swan. Black except white under its wings. Beak is reddish.”
There are no black swans native to North America but they do exist in southern Australia. I wouldn’t even know about them except that they’re sometimes imported to adorn man-made ponds and I’m familiar with a small flock at the water hazards of the Ponderosa Golf Course in Hookstown, PA. Google and Wikimedia came up with this picture. I sent it to my sister and she replied, “100% YES!”
What will happen to this bird? Who can say? He’s alone, imported from a remote place, and probably escaped from his former life as a pond ornament. His large size protects him. A salt marsh in southern Virginia where it rarely snows is probably just fine for the winter.
And for me? Another victory in Remote Bird Identification.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain. Click on the image to see the original)