What Birds Swim Underwater


Birds that swim underwater are fascinating creatures, and many people wonder which ones can do so. Some species, such as penguins and cormorants, have evolved to become excellent swimmers, using their wings as flippers and their webbed feet as paddles. These birds are specially designed to dive deep into the water and hunt for prey.

Penguins are perhaps the most famous birds that swim underwater. These flightless birds can hold their breath for over 20 minutes while they dive and search for fish to eat. Similarly, cormorants also have a unique ability to catch prey underwater, but unlike penguins, they don’t carry food within their bodies since they lack the adipose tissue which helps them float.

There are more birds that swim underwater other than just penguins and cormorants. Gannets are seabirds that plunge-dive from heights of up to 30 meters in order to catch fish. The common loon is another example of an aquatic bird; it is capable of diving up to 70 meters deep in search of fish.

According to Science Daily, puffins – cute looking little seabirds that live in the North Atlantic- can swim up to 200 feet below the surface of the ocean! These adorable birds use their wings for propulsion much like a penguin does.

Interestingly, not all water-based birds rely on swimming skills – some can actually walk on water too! For instance, Jacanas have long toes that help distribute their weight over a large area. It allows them to move across floating vegetation with ease.

Why fly when you can dive? These birds take to the water like ducks to…well, you know.

Types of birds that swim underwater

Birds that are capable of swimming underwater come from various species and can be found all over the world. These avian divers exhibit different physiques, behaviors, and adaptations to thrive in their aquatic environment.

  • The Common Loon is a skilled diver that can swim for up to 15 minutes beneath the surface.
  • The Great Crested Grebe is a bird that is also adept at swimming and diving. It has specialized feathers that enable it to trap air, allowing it to sink or float as needed.
  • Penguins are another group of birds well-equipped for underwater life. Their wings have evolved into flippers, which help them “fly” through the water.
  • Cormorants have webbed feet and streamlined bodies that make them superb swimmers. They are known to catch fish with their beaks while submerged.
  • Ducks, geese, and swans may not be considered underwater swimmers by definition but they are still proficient in diving when necessary. They can hold their breath and navigate below the surface for short distances.

These birds’ abilities to swim underwater depend on various factors such as habitat, food source, and behaviors. For instance, some birds dive in search of prey while others may use this skill for protection.

As an important reminder when observing these avian divers, do not try to approach or disturb them while they are swimming or submerged as this can cause significant stress to the animals.

Who needs scuba gear when you have feathers – birds really are the ultimate swimmers!

Adaptations for underwater swimming in birds

Birds are remarkable creatures that have adapted to various environments, including underwater habitats. These birds possess unique adaptations that enable them to swim and thrive in aquatic environments.

Adaptations for Swimming Underwater in Birds Examples
Body Shape & Buoyancy Penguins are aerodynamic and streamlined with torpedo-like bodies while loons have heavy and solid bones to sink deeper
Water Repellent Feathers Ducks produce oil from their preen gland, which they spread over their feathers to create a water-repellent barrier
Webbed Feet Cormorants have webbed feet for propulsion in water while diving for fish
Unique Beaks & Eyesight Pelicans use their beaks as a scooping tool while fulmars use theirs like a spoon. Some birds also have the ability to see clearly underwater, such as kingfishers

Apart from these adaptations, some birds even breathe through specialized air sacs to remain submerged longer. However, it’s important to note that not all birds are capable of swimming or diving underwater due to their physiology.

A true story of bird adaptation can be seen in the case of emperor penguins. These master divers can hold their breath for up to 22 minutes and dive more than 1,800 feet below the surface. Researchers have found that the blood vessels in an emperor penguin’s flippers constrict at great depths which enables them to reduce blood flow and conserve oxygen until they resurface. This is just one example of the incredible adaptability of birds in underwater habitats.

Why settle for just flying or swimming when you can do both? These birds truly are masters of multitasking.

Behavior and diet of underwater swimming birds

Underwater swimming birds exhibit unique behavior and dietary habits. These birds can dive deep into the water to catch prey, and their diet primarily includes fish, crustaceans, and aquatic plants.

Using <table>, <td>, <tr> tags, we could illustrate the behavior and diet of underwater swimming birds in a tabular format. The table could have two columns – one for Behavior and the other for Diet. Under Behavior, we could include categories such as diving depth, duration of dive, and speed of swim. In the Diet column, we could mention the types of fish and crustaceans consumed along with the percentage of aquatic plants.

Behavior Diet
Diving depth Fish (60%), crustaceans (30%), aquatic plants (10%)
Duration of dive Fish (70%), crustaceans (20%), aquatic plants (10%)
Speed of swim Fish (50%), crustaceans (30%), aquatic plants (20%)

It is worth noting that some underwater-swimming-birds are capable of holding their breath for extended periods while diving for food. For example, penguins can hold their breath for over 20 minutes while hunting fish.

Pro Tip: Observe underwater swimming birds from a distance to avoid interfering with their natural habitat or causing any disturbance.
Conservation efforts for underwater swimming birds may be futile if they discover the joys of walking on water like their distant cousin, the Jesus bird.

Threats and conservation efforts for underwater swimming birds

Populations of marine birds that rely on underwater swimming are facing a multitude of threats. Conservation efforts aim to mitigate the risks presented by factors like climate change, habitat loss and pollution. Protecting habitats and reducing human impact is crucial in ensuring the survival of these unique bird populations.

Underwater birds are often affected both directly and indirectly by human activities, such as the overfishing of their prey or the introduction of invasive species to their habitats. Efforts are being made to reduce these harmful impacts, with conservation organizations working tirelessly to implement strategies aimed at protecting marine environments from damage. Strategies can include reducing plastic waste, improving fishing practices, and creating protected areas for important seabird habitats.

As predators that feed predominantly on fish species that are affected by climate change, underwater birds could be among the most vulnerable groups of marine life. In addition to efforts made on location at nesting sites and foraging areas, there is also increasing global emphasis on climate mitigation measures that can help curtail negative impacts across all ecosystems.

A tragic example in recent times was with Northern Fulmars impacted during an oil spill disaster resulting in thousands of fatalities. The consequences were unfortunately avoidable; environmental precautions and preventative measures must be increasingly implemented before such losses occur.

Why stick to just flying or swimming when you can have the best of both worlds and be a bird that can dive underwater?


Birds that can swim underwater are fascinating creatures, each with its own unique abilities and adaptations. Some species, such as penguins and puffins, have evolved to become highly efficient swimmers, with streamlined bodies and flipper-like wings that help them to dive deep in search of prey. Other birds, like grebes and loons, have feet positioned far back on their bodies that enable them to propel themselves through the water.

These birds’ ability to swim underwater is due to a number of factors, including their bodies’ physical adaptations for swimming and diving. For example, many underwater birds have special glands that secrete oil over their feathers, helping to keep them waterproof and insulate their bodies against the cold water temperatures.

Interestingly, some of these seabirds can stay underwater for several minutes at a time while hunting fish or other aquatic prey. Additionally, certain species of ducks are also able to swim underwater by using their wings as flippers.

According to Audubon Society’s website, a group of penguin researchers has discovered how penguins can “shoot” themselves out of the water. They mentioned that the King Penguins could achieve impressive speeds – about 9 miles per hour – in what’s known as a “porpoising” maneuver. [1]

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What birds are capable of swimming underwater?

Several species of birds are capable of swimming underwater, including puffins, cormorants, loons, and grebes.

2. How do birds swim underwater?

Birds that swim underwater have special adaptations that allow them to dive and swim. They have streamlined bodies, strong wings that double as flippers, and dense bones that help them sink. Some birds also have waterproof feathers that trap air and help them stay buoyant.

3. How long can birds swim underwater?

The length of time birds can swim underwater varies from species to species. Some birds, like the emperor penguin, can swim underwater for up to 20 minutes. Other birds, like the common loon, can stay underwater for about a minute.

4. What do birds eat when swimming underwater?

When swimming underwater, birds primarily eat fish and other aquatic creatures. Some birds, like the cormorant, have a special adaptation that allows them to hold their breath for longer periods of time, allowing them to dive deeper and catch bigger fish.

5. How do birds avoid drowning when swimming underwater?

Birds that swim underwater have special adaptations that allow them to avoid drowning. They have the ability to hold their breath for extended periods of time, which gives them the ability to swim and dive without needing to surface. They also have the ability to regulate their buoyancy so they can swim at different depths.

6. Can chickens swim underwater?

Chickens are not capable of swimming underwater as they do not have the necessary adaptations for swimming. While they may be able to float briefly, they do not have the ability to dive or swim like other aquatic birds.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.