We have been studying black swans since 1999. The focus of our study was initially a population on Lake Wendouree in Ballarat, but a prolonged drought resulted in the lake drying out completely in 2005, and the swan population moving elsewhere. In 2006 we decided to shift our focus to the population of swans at Albert Park in the central CBD of Melbourne, where we have worked ever since.
Albert Park Lake supports a permanent population of around 150 swans. We have tagged around half of the birds with numbered neck collars, which allow us to recognise individuals and track their movements and fate over time.
As part of our research program, we routinely conduct censuses of the lake to determine which individuals are present and absent. This helps us to build up a picture of how long the birds spend at the lake, and whether they are still alive. At regular intervals we also capture birds. This allows us to take small blood samples for DNA analysis, or to measure levels of hormones that are good indicators of health or stress. We also weigh and measure the birds to learn more about their condition and rates of growth.