Black Swan Bird at Mysore Zoo
“Ma, is that white swan painted black?” was what my eight year old asked me when she saw the Black Swan. She was staring at it with disbelief, in her world of imagination and dreams there were only white swans. I had read about black swans and seen their pictures, but never seen them live and so close. I too was watching it, stunned by its beauty. This was at Mysore Zoo.
Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) are large water birds breed mainly in the region of southeast and southwest regions of Australia. Black swans feature a lot in Western Australia’s art and literature and its state flag has Black Swan swimming right to left on a yellow background.
My daughter’s query reminded of the metaphor ‘black swan’ (disambiguation). Black swan meaning is different. One of the Western misconceptions was ‘All swans are white’. So a black swan was a metaphor for something which could not exist. A Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh recorded the sighting of the first black swan for the first time in 1697. The discovery of the black swan along Australia’s west coast in the late 17th and early 18th centuries led to the shattering of the age-old metaphor.
The Black Swan was an idea put forward by the Enlightenment philosopher, David Hume. It was meant to represent the unexpected, the stuff you don’t know or don’t know that you don’t know. The famous Black Swan theory developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb labels the unexpected rare events in his book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. The book makes several useful points for entrepreneurs and investors that come from the existence of Black Swans. Read the interesting interview by Business Online.
What is a Black Swan?
Medieval Europeans had only ever seen white swans. In fact, any impossible event was termed a ‘black swan’. So, when the first settlers reached Australia, they were shocked to find black swans all over! Taleb’s black swans are those events that were once thought impossible, but when they occur, hit hard. In this extract, he writes about how we create narratives after ‘black swan’ events; making them seem predictable after they occur.
Err… I deviated; my main aim was to present the beautiful birds. Below is a picture of the White Swan coexisting peacefully with the Black Swans in the Mysore Zoo. We were cautioned not to get too close as black swans attack.