The black swans of Dawlish were introduced to the town from New Zealand by John Nash, a Dawlish-borne man who emigrated during adulthood but paid frequent visits to the town. The swan has been the town emblem for over forty years.
The black swan is native to Australia and is found throughout much of the south-eastern and south-western parts. It is found on most wetlands, ranging from small well-vegetated freshwater swamps to large, open waters, including bays and inlets. The black swan is fully protected in all states and territories of Australia. The black swan of New Zealand is not native but was introduced from Australia, and is now considered a pest.
In flight, the black swan has a very long slender neck and white flight feathers along the edge of its wings. The flight is slow with slow wing beats, and a high-pitched bugle is often uttered. Male and female have a similar appearance. Juveniles are grey-brown with black tips to the outer white flight feathers, and cygnets are light grey, downy with grey-black bills and feet.