Last week, outside his house on Corey Creek, Tony Bellissimo saw something he had never seen before.
There in the water, right in front of him, were two black swans with bright-red beaks. At first he thought they were white swans that might have been covered with oil from a spill, but a closer look ruled that out.
A little work on Google told him they were black swans native to Australia, half a world away. Under no circumstances he could think of should they be paddling around a creek in Southold, so far from their home country.
“I saw them on Thursday and every day since then,” he said. “There are two of them, a male and a female. The bright-red bill really caught my eye. They are absolutely beautiful birds.
“But how did they get here?”
Research shows that black swans have been reported in Florida and that any sightings might be the result of their release by a keeper or their escape from a private household. Last year, the exotic birds were also seen in ponds around Newport Beach, Calif..
But here, in Southold?
Aphrodite Montalvo, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Conservation, saw the photographs Mr. Bellissimo took and she was also a bit surprised.
“I checked with our wildlife staff,” she wrote in an email. “They are not familiar with these swans as they are not native to New York … They did a little research and we have not had any sightings of these birds. Black swans are native to Australia, and it could be possible that they were released or escaped from captivity.”
“Well, they are here on Corey Creek,” Mr. Bellissimo said.
Jennifer Murray of the North Fork Chapter of the Audubon Society said in an email, “No, I have not heard of them here historically. I heard a report in Cutchogue recently. My guess is they are escaped ‘pets.’ ”