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10 Birds That Can Swim Underwater

Penguin swimming.

Are you fascinated by birds that can swim underwater? Did you know that several species of birds have evolved to swim and dive underwater to catch their prey?

These aquatic birds have developed unique adaptations that allow them to stay submerged for long periods and move swiftly through the water.

Some of the most well-known birds that can swim underwater are cormorants, loons, pelicans, penguins, and puffins. These birds have specialized feathers denser than those of other birds, which help them stay submerged in the water.

They also have webbed feet that allow them to paddle through the water easily, and their streamlined bodies help them move quickly and efficiently.


Puffins are small, adorable seabirds known for their colourful beaks and ability to dive and swim underwater. They are excellent swimmers and can use their wings to essentially “fly” underwater while using their feet to control direction. Puffins are also known for their ability to hold their breath for up to a minute while diving underwater to catch fish.

Puffins are found in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. They typically breed and nest in large colonies on rocky cliffs or islands. Puffins are monogamous and will mate for life, returning to the same nesting site year after year.

Puffins are well adapted to their underwater lifestyle. Their unique respiratory system allows them to extract more oxygen from the air they breathe, which helps them stay underwater for longer periods. They also have specialized eyes that can adjust to the refractive index of water, allowing them to see underwater.

Puffins typically feed on small fish, such as herring, sand eels, and capelin. They can dive to depths of up to 200 feet, though they usually stay underwater for only 20 or 30 seconds. Puffins use their wings to swim and their beaks to catch and hold onto their prey.


Penguins are one of the most well-known birds that can swim underwater. They are flightless birds that are perfectly adapted to life in the water. Penguins spend up to 75% of their lives in the water and are excellent swimmers.

One of the reasons why penguins are such good swimmers is because of their streamlined bodies. Their wings have evolved into flippers that help them easily navigate the water. Penguins also have a layer of fat that helps to keep them warm in the cold water.

Penguins are also able to hold their breath for long periods. Some penguins can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes at a time. This allows them to dive to great depths in search of food.

Penguins have a special gland above their eyes that helps them remove excess salt from their bodies. This is important because penguins often swallow saltwater while they are swimming.


Ducks are a common type of bird known for their love of water. They are often seen swimming in ponds, lakes, and rivers.

One of the most well-known ducks that can swim underwater is the Common Merganser. These ducks have long, slender body and a pointed bill that is ideal for catching fish. They are also excellent swimmers and can dive underwater for up to a minute to catch their prey. Common Mergansers are found throughout North America and Eurasia.

Another species of duck that can swim underwater is the Canvasback. These ducks have distinctive red head and are known for their excellent diving abilities. They can dive up to 6 feet deep and stay underwater for up to 30 seconds. Canvasbacks are found throughout North America and are a popular game bird.

The Ring-necked Duck is another species of duck that can swim underwater. These ducks have a distinctive white ring around their bill and are known for their excellent diving abilities. They can dive up to 4 feet deep and stay underwater for up to 20 seconds. Ring-necked Ducks are found throughout North America and Eurasia.


Loons are long-bodied birds that can be found in the Northern Hemisphere. They breed mainly in northern parts of Canada, Russia, and Scandinavia.

Unlike most bird species, loons have solid bones, which makes them less buoyant and more effective at manoeuvring through the water. The extra weight helps them dive as deep as 250 feet to search for food. They can stay underwater for up to five minutes.

Because their bodies are heavy relative to their wing size, loons need a 100- to 600-foot “runway” in order to take off from a lake. This means that they need a lot of open water to be able to fly.

They can fly at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour and can cover over 1,000 miles during migration.


Gannets are a type of seabird that is known for their aerial acrobatics. But did you know these birds can dive underwater to catch their prey? Gannets can stay underwater for up to two minutes! Their diving ability allows them to hunt effectively in shallow and deep waters.

Northern Gannets are the largest seabirds in the northern Atlantic. They have a mainly white streamlined body with a long neck and long, slender wings. They are 87-100 cm long with a 170-180 cm wingspan. The sexes are similar in appearance.

Foraging by plunging headfirst into the water, sometimes from more than 100 feet above the surface, is a common behaviour of Gannets. They also forage while swimming, submerging their head to peer below the surface and diving and swimming underwater. They may take food at the surface or steal food from other birds.

Gannets are social birds that breed in large colonies on coastal cliffs and islands. They build their nests on the ground using grass, seaweed, and other materials. They lay one pale bluish-white egg.


Coots are similar in appearance to ducks but have a few unique characteristics that set them apart. For one, they have a small head and a scrawny body. They also have dark bodies and white faces, which make them easy to spot on the water.

One of the most impressive things about coots is their ability to swim underwater. They use their feet to paddle and their wings to propel themselves forward, allowing them to dive down and search for food. They’re also capable of staying underwater for up to 30 seconds.

Their diet includes algae, aquatic plants, insects, and small fish. They’re also known to eat the eggs and young of other birds.


Pelicans are known for their impressive diving abilities. These birds can dive up to 60 feet underwater in search of fish. Pelicans are also known for their unique hunting style. They will often work together in groups to corral fish into shallow waters, making it easier for them to catch their prey.

One of the most impressive things about pelicans is how they dive after fish without breaking their necks. Pelicans have a special air sac in their neck that acts as a cushion when they hit the water. This air sac helps to prevent injury when the pelican hits the water at high speeds.

Pelicans also have a unique way of fishing. They will often fly high above the water and then dive straight down into the water, using their large wings to slow their descent. Once they hit the water, they will open their beaks and scoop up fish and water into their pouch.


These aquatic diving birds are found in freshwater and marine habitats during migration and winter.

One of the most interesting things about grebes is their ability to control their buoyancy. Unlike ducks, which must work hard to stay underwater, grebes can easily sink by squeezing out the air trapped in their feathers and internal air sacs.

This allows them to swim underwater more easily and catch their prey more efficiently.

Grebes are also known for their unique neck structure, which allows them to make rapid spear-like thrusts with their bills. This behaviour may be useful in spearing fish, but its use is not well understood.

When it comes to reproduction, grebes are known for their elaborate courtship displays. They build floating nests on the water’s surface and lay 2-4 pale bluish-white eggs. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, which hatch after about 23 days.


Cormorants are known for their exceptional swimming and diving abilities. They are found in many parts of the world and are known to inhabit both fresh and saltwater environments.

They can dive to depths of at least 160 feet and stay submerged for up to a minute. Their streamlined bodies, webbed feet, and powerful wings make them perfectly adapted to life underwater.

Cormorants are also skilled hunters and feed primarily on small fish and invertebrates. They use their sharp beaks to catch their prey and swallow it whole. They hunt in groups, diving and swimming together to corral fish into tight groups before striking.

One interesting fact about cormorants is their unique way of drying their feathers after swimming. Unlike other birds, cormorants do not have a waterproof coating on their feathers. Instead, they have a specialized gland near their tail that secretes oil that helps to repel water.

After swimming, cormorants will often perch on a branch or rock with their wings outstretched, allowing the sun to dry their feathers and the wind to remove any excess water.


This bird is also known as the “snakebird” because of its long, thin neck that looks like a snake when it swims. The Anhinga is found in the warmer parts of the Americas and is a common sight around lakes, ponds, and rivers.

One of the most interesting things about the Anhinga is how it hunts for food. It swims underwater, and stabs fish with its sharp, dagger-like bill. After catching its prey, the Anhinga will swim to the surface and hold the fish in its bill while it dries its wings.

Another interesting fact about the Anhinga is that it has a special adaptation that allows it to swim underwater for long periods. Unlike ducks and other water birds, the Anhinga’s feathers are not waterproof.

This makes it easier for birds to dive underwater and swim after fish. However, it also means that the Anhinga needs to dry its feathers after swimming, so you’ll often see it perched on a branch with its wings spread.