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Top 10 Birds That Can Swim Underwater

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Swimming birds are a fascinating group of avian species that have adapted to life both in the air and underwater. While most birds are known for their aerial prowess, some have developed remarkable abilities to swim beneath the surface of the water. In this comprehensive list, we’ll explore the top 10 birds that can swim underwater.

10 Birds That Can Swim Underwater

1. Penguins

Penguins are perhaps the most famous underwater swimmers among birds. These flightless birds are highly adapted to life in the water, with their flipper-like wings helping them navigate and propel themselves gracefully through the ocean. Penguins are known for their incredible diving abilities, and some species can reach depths of over 1,500 feet while hunting for fish, squid, and krill.PenguinsPenguins are easily recognizable by their black and white plumage, which serves as camouflage while they swim. They have flipper-like wings that are adapted for swimming, and their legs are short and set far back on their bodies, which makes them waddle when they walk on land.

2. Ducks

Ducks are known for their affinity for water, and many species are excellent swimmers. Their webbed feet and streamlined bodies allow them to glide smoothly on the surface and dive beneath it when searching for aquatic vegetation, insects, and small fish.DucksThe Northern Pintail, for example, is a dabbling duck known for its underwater foraging skills. Many duck species are migratory, flying long distances between their breeding and wintering grounds. Migration is often triggered by changes in temperature and food availability.

3. Cormorants

Cormorants are a group of birds known for their exceptional diving abilities. They have long necks and sharp beaks, which make them excellent fish hunters.CormorantsCormorants can often be seen swimming underwater with only their long necks and heads visible above the surface as they search for prey. After a successful dive, they emerge from the water to dry their wings in the sun.

4. Puffins

Puffins are seabirds that are not only skilled flyers but also adept swimmers. They use their wings to “fly” underwater, where they pursue small fish such as herring and sand eels. Puffins are known for their distinctive and colorful beaks, which they use to carry multiple fish back to their nests for their chicks.PuffinsPuffins are small to medium-sized seabirds that belong to the family Alcidae. These distinctive birds are known for their striking appearance, characterized by colorful bills and markings, as well as their ability to both fly and swim underwater. Here are some key facts about puffins

5. Grebes

Grebes are diving waterbirds known for their elegant and agile underwater movements. They have lobed toes, which act like flippers, making them excellent swimmers. These birds are often found in freshwater habitats and can dive to considerable depths to catch fish and aquatic invertebrates.GrebesGrebes are exceptional divers. They use their powerful legs and feet, which are set far back on their bodies, to propel themselves underwater in search of food. They primarily feed on fish and aquatic invertebrates.

6. Murres

Murres, also known as guillemots, are seabirds that can dive deep underwater to catch fish. They are well-adapted to marine life, with their streamlined bodies and strong wings. Murres are known for their efficient hunting techniques, which involve swimming and chasing schools of fish beneath the ocean’s surface.MurresMurres are seabirds belonging to the Alcidae family, which includes species of auks. These birds are known for their distinctive appearance and behavior and are primarily found in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. There are two main species of murres. 

7. Auks

Auks are a group of birds that includes species like razorbills and puffins. They are skilled underwater swimmers, using their wings to propel themselves through the water in search of prey. Razorbills, in particular, are known for their fast and agile underwater movements.AuksAuks are known for forming large breeding colonies on rocky islands and cliffs. These colonies provide protection from land-based predators. The birds often lay their eggs in burrows or on rocky ledges.

8. Eiders

Eiders are large sea ducks known for their ability to dive and swim underwater. They have specialized adaptations, such as a dense layer of down feathers, that allow them to stay warm in cold ocean waters. Eiders are known for their deep dives in search of mollusks and crustaceans.EidersEiders are large ducks with distinctive coloration. Male common eiders, for example, have a striking black and white plumage pattern, while females are generally brown and mottled for camouflage during nesting. The males also have a pronounced wedge-shaped bill.

9. Kingfishers

While most kingfishers are known for their fishing skills from perches above the water, some species, like the Pied Kingfisher, are excellent underwater hunters. These kingfishers can hover above the water’s surface and dive in headfirst to catch fish with their sharp beaks.KingfishersAs the name suggests, kingfishers primarily feed on fish. They have excellent vision and can spot prey from a perch or while hovering above the water. When they spot a fish, they dive headfirst into the water to catch it with their sharp bill. They may also eat other aquatic creatures, insects, and small vertebrates.

10. Swans

Swans are graceful birds known for their elegance on both land and water. While they are primarily herbivores, they can also submerge their long necks and bodies to reach aquatic vegetation growing beneath the water’s surface. Mute Swans, for instance, are known to perform elegant underwater ballets as they feed.SwansSwans are characterized by their long necks, slender bodies, and webbed feet. They are among the largest flying birds and have a wingspan that can range from 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3 meters). Adult swans typically have all-white plumage, although some species may have patches of black or gray on their heads and necks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can penguins fly?

No, penguins are flightless birds adapted for swimming underwater. They use their wings as flippers to navigate underwater.

How deep can puffins dive?

Puffins can dive to depths of up to 60 meters (197 feet) in search of fish.

What do Common Eiders eat underwater?

Common Eiders primarily feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and other marine invertebrates when diving underwater.

How long can common loons stay submerged?

Common loons can stay submerged for up to 3 minutes while hunting for fish.

Are grebes good at flying?

Grebes are excellent swimmers but are not very strong flyers. They are more agile in the water.

How do Anhingas swim underwater?

Anhingas swim submerged with just their long neck and head above water, resembling a snake, hence their nickname “snakebird.”

What is the purpose of the tufted puffin’s colorful bill during breeding season?

The colorful bill of tufted puffins serves as a display to attract mates during the breeding season.

Do kingfishers swim underwater to catch fish?

Yes, kingfishers are known for diving underwater to catch fish, their primary source of food.

Why are they called “horned” grebes?

They are called “horned” grebes due to the tufted feathered “horns” on their heads during the breeding season.

What is unique about mergansers’ bills?

Mergansers have serrated bills that help them catch and hold onto slippery fish.


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  • Hey pet lovers ! I am Deepali H passionate pet lover and writer who enjoys sharing tips, facts and information about Pets .With 3 years of experience in the pet industry, I have a wealth of knowledge to offer readers. I hope you will like my articles. Thank you !

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