Lakeland announces the city's first successful birth of a black-necked swan

There is a new and adorable resident in Lakeland: a black-necked swan cygnet.

City officials announced its birth on Monday evening, saying it's the first successful birth of its kind in Lakeland.

Six years ago, city officials said they acquired a male and female black-necked swan, but there was little success in producing an offspring. Recently, Steve Platt, a grounds maintenance supervisor with the city - who is also known as the "Swanfather" - noticed the swan parents made a nest around Lake Morton. Sitting in the nest were three eggs.

"Our black neck swans aren't the best parents and it's difficult to have a successful captive breeding program with this breed," he said in a statement. "This is the first time in the 22 years that I've been with the city that we actually have a black neck baby swan so we are very excited to share this experience."

Platt's crew monitored the nest for a few days before taking the eggs to the city's swan egg incubator. The incubator is located at Companion Animal Hospital, located on Bartow Road. City officials said black-necked swan parents don't typically sit on their eggs long enough to hatch them.

The eggs were incubated in a temperature of about 100 degrees and the humidity was set at about 60 percent. The eggs were slightly turned every few hours until a few days before they are expected to hatch.

Those eggs must be turned carefully, officials said, to avoid the inner membrane from separating from the outer shell. It's very rare for a black-necked swan egg to survive incubation at all, they added.

One baby black-necked swan hatched about three weeks ago, and has thrived at the animal hospital. Officials announced that the baby swan was far enough along to share the news with residents.

"The black necks have been a tough species for our swan care program and the fact that we have a baby that will soon be introduced on Lake Morton is very exciting," Platt said.

Officials said they will relocate the cygnet to Lake Morton once its ready to survive on its own, which could be in the next few months. There is no word yet on when the other two eggs may hatch.

The swans are usually covered in light gray feathers when they are born. Their neck feathers tend to darken after three months of life, but they don't achieve their white-and-black coat until two years later, according to the St. Louis Zoo.

The species is typically found in South America, and their normal habitats include swamps and shallow lakes.The black-necked swan is the largest South American waterfowl, according to SeaWorld.