Birds are some of the most majestic creatures on the planet. However, even though they’re primarily known for their flight prowess, certain bird species can swim and dive underwater.
In this article, we’ll dive into a list of 17 majestic birds that all fit into this category, including ones that can swim, dive, and do both. But first, we’ll take a look at what these types of birds are called, and which ones are best at swimming.
What Is the Name of a Bird That Swims?
Birds that swim are aptly named and categorized as aquatic birds.
What Bird Is Best at Swimming?
Some birds have become specially adapted to swimming. These birds can reach speeds of up to 22 mph underwater.
Here are some of the best swimmers among bird species:
- Gentoo penguin
Pygoscelis Papua or the Gentoo penguin can swim quite fast and reach speeds of up to 36km/hr. Gentoo penguins are flightless birds that live mainly near the Antarctic Peninsula.
The swan can reach speeds of up to 17km/hr when swimming. Swans are buoyant in water due to their body structure, webbed feet, and feathers. Swans can fly, but they mainly live near freshwater sources.
Ducks are excellent swimmers because they have developed the ability to close their nose and ears. They can reach speeds of up to 10km/hr. Ducks can live in small ponds or lakes, and over 162 duck species exist.
Living mainly on the Atlantic and some of the great lakes, gulls can swim very fast. Their expansive wingspans and feathers make them excellent swimmers.
Birds That Can Fly and Swim
Certain bird species have unique features that enable them to swim and fly. Here are some majestic birds that can swim and fly.
Some of the birds capable of both flying and swimming are:
- Common Murres
- Caspian terns
Flamingos are capable of swimming and flight. They will usually fly when migrating. Flamingos have webbed feet, which helps them move in the water. Flamingos often live in freshwater or saltwater.
Although the Hoatzins do not have webbed feet, they are great swimmers. The bird rarely flies despite having the power of flight. Hoatzins are unique because they have a similar digestive system to a cow. Thus, allowing them to survive on a diet of leaves and buds.
Razorbills can dive to depths of about 330 feet. Razorbills prioritize swimming, and they prefer living in colonies near oceans. Razorbills have powerful beaks, which they can use to feast on crustaceans.
One of the defining features of this majestic bird is that it can eat its catch underwater. Razorbills are the only species remaining of the genus Alca.
The common Murre has slender wings that allow them to fly and swim. When in water, the wings act like flippers to help them dive to get fish. Common Murres are similar to penguins and spend most of their time on the water. They are only on land during the breeding season.
Caspian terns are not that well-adapted to swimming. They usually swim close to the water and dive only to catch fish. Caspian terns have a 31-inch wingspan to help them fly or dive when need be.
These birds usually swim by partially submerging their bodies while their neck remains out of water. They do not like living in areas with a lot of open water. But they are commonly found in ponds, streams, or freshwater lakes.
Cormorants are one of the more well-known birds capable of swimming and flying. Fishermen will often follow cormorants to find fish. Cormorants can dive up to 150 feet and stay underwater for approximately four minutes.
Cormorants can eat fish and eels they catch when they dive underwater. Cormorants have a cage-like structure on their throat. This structure allows them to eat small fish while preventing big fish from passing through.
Birds That Can Swim Underwater
Part of the 17 majestic birds that can swim includes birds that can swim underwater. Some of these birds are:
Easily identifiable due to their large beaks, pelicans can swim underwater. Their beaks help catch prey and remove the water before swallowing. Pelicans like living near coastal environments with warm climates. Thus, pelicans are often referred to as marine birds.
You may also find pelicans in Texas, Louisiana, or Florida. Pelicans are communal creatures and will often travel and hunt in groups.
Coots are small and medium-sized waterbirds that resemble chickens. These birds enjoy living in ponds or lakes. Coots can swim effectively due to the broad lobes on their long toes.
Coots are also similar to ducks in terms of body size and shape. One defining feature of coots is that they build nests in water.
Geese can swim underwater even though it is something they do not like doing. These aquatic birds are close relatives to ducks and swans. Geese can live anywhere except in Antarctica or in freezing temperatures.
Geese use their legs to paddle through the water. When they feel hungry, geese graze on underwater vegetation by submerging their heads in the water.
Considered expert swimmers, puffins live at sea, where they get to hunt small fish, such as capelin, herring, and hake. Puffins can also fly. This feature differentiates them from other aquatic birds that swim underwater, such as penguins.
When diving, puffins can go as deep as 200 feet and hold their breath for approximately 20 minutes. Puffins are only found on land during the breeding season.
Grebes are expert divers and swimmers that cannot walk on land. Grebes can build their nests in water. They have lobed feet for minimum drag when moving underwater.
One of the defining features of grebes is that their legs are at the rear end of their bodies. Additionally, the courting process of grebes is a ballet-like dance on water.
These aquatic birds have webbed feet to help them swim underwater. Boobies dive into the water after they have spotted prey. Thus, they have stereoscopic eyesight and can spot squid at night.
Boobies can dive from as high as 80 feet. Diving from such heights allows them to hit the water at speeds as high as 67 mph. Almost half the population of boobies live in the Galapagos Islands during the breeding period.
Birds remain some of the most fascinating creatures on our planet. The 17 majestic birds in this list prove that these creatures are highly versatile.
Nevertheless, more than 17 birds can swim out there. These birds are commonly known as aquatic birds, and seeing such majestic creatures in action is extremely enjoyable.