17 Birds That Swim Underwater (Swimming Birds)

There are over 18,000 bird species around the globe. Birds are inhabited many environments, such as the land, air, and even water.

Some birds, however, are unable to fly, while others are constrained to a living on the ground or primarily limited to the sky. However, in this piece, we will discuss the birds which can dive and swim in the water.

These species, sometimes called waterbirds or aquatic birds, can be located in both freshwater settings such as rivers, lakes, and streams and saltwater areas such as the ocean, or even both!

They have specific modifications that enable them to float over the water with ease.

Now let us take a brief look at certain aquatic birds and learn a bit about each one.

Diving DucksDiving Ducks
American DipperAmerican Dipper

Which are the Birds that Swim Underwater?

1. Gannets


Gannets are a kind of seabird famous for their acrobatic dances. However, you may be surprised to learn that all these species can dive underwater to get their meal. Gannets can actually stay underwater for roughly two mins!

The diving capability of the gannet helps it to hunt efficiently in both shallow and deep seas. Gannets swim from great heights and utilize their strong wings to accelerate through the water until surfacing with prey in their mouth.

Despite their excellent diving abilities, gannets do not always grab prey. In reality, only around one-third of any and all dives yield a catch.

2. Boobies

Credits – Wikipedia

Boobies are incredible birds that really can dive and swim underwater to grab food. They possess unique feathers on both their wings and bodies that allow them to remain underwater for extended periods of time.

They have long, sharp beaks that are ideal for collecting squid, fish, and other tiny aquatic organisms. Boobies hunt in vast groups, so there will always be someone looking for food beneath the surface.

When they see something tasty, they swim rapidly and grab it before coming to the top. It’s a thing to behold to witness such birds diving and swimming beneath the ocean!

3. Diving Ducks

Diving Ducks

To look for food, diving ducks dive down into the ocean. They may maintain their breathing for many minutes before diving to the bottom of a lake or river in search of food. Certain diving ducks, such as the long-tailed duck, can hunt at levels of up to 200 ft.

Ducks can swim beneath the water for long periods of time because they can seal their ears and nostrils.

While diving, their plumes also keep them dry. Ducks move across the water by using their webbed feet like paddles. In quest of a meal or refuge, they may swim to depths of so many meters.

4. Swans

Whooper swan

Although swans are often renowned for their apparently beautiful glide over rivers and lakes. They are also highly adaptable and can dive underwater when necessary. In contrast, they spend the bulk of their time in the water floating instead of swimming.

Although, this does not preclude them from diving frequently in order to obtain food or avoid predators. Swans can immerse themselves by burying their heads and necks underneath the water and propelling themselves ahead with their muscular legs.

Due to the obvious swan’s wide neck’s ability to store additional oxygen, they can often retain their breath for over 20 minutes until rising.

5. Pelicans

Brown Pelican

Because of their uniquely designed lungs, pelicans will dive beneath the water for long periods of time. Pelicans, unlike many other birds, possess lobed lungs that help to take in even more air.

This additional air allows pelicans to stay submerged for more than 18 minutes. Furthermore, pelicans have such a layer of fat beneath their skin that keeps them warmer in chilly water.

American white pelicans are the best swimmers. They are capable of diving approximately 100 feet deep underwater. They frequently employ this capacity to find food, such as fish and crabs.

6. Diving-Petrels​​​​​​​


Diving petrels are seabirds with the ability to swim in the water. They may swim to levels of up to 34 meters and remain underwater for more than to 15 mins.

Their wings have developed to be particularly designed for diving, with long, sharp corners that aid in cutting through the water. This enables them to scavenge for meals in ocean depths where many other birds are unable to reach.

Diving petrels utilize their wings like oars to dive beneath the water and may travel at rates of about 6 kilometers per hour. They like temperate, cold seas and might be spotted in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans.

7. Shearwaters


Shearwaters may swim and dive underwater for more than 15 mins at levels of about 70 meters. They accomplish this by employing their uniquely modified wings as effective oars, enabling them to push themselves through the water.

Shearwaters used to have a big oil gland that assists them in remaining warm in chilly seas. A coating of air-filled cells is called pneumatization, which keeps the brain nourished and oxygenated even while underwater.

8. Grebes


Grebes are seabirds recognized for their swimming and diving ability. They can swim about 20 feet (6 meters) underneath the water and stay down for around thirty seconds.

The dives are normally brief, however, the birds may dive lasting up to a min if necessary. Grebes utilize their enormous wings to push themselves through the water, and then they can even navigate while submerged.

This enables them to maneuver through small places and hunt for food in difficult-to-reach regions.

9. Loons


Loons are famous for their unusual cries, which may be audible from miles away over a peaceful pond. These enormous aquatic birds, however, are also excellent swimmers and divers, skilled in remaining submerged for extended periods of time when looking for food.

Loons’ diving abilities allow them to remain underwater even in severe currents.

Loons can actually stay submerged for up to 5 mins! And their enormous wings allow them to dive fast across the water, seizing prey before it would flee.

Although loons usually devour fish, they will indeed eat amphibians, crabs, and insects. To locate food, they normally dive to deeper parts of roughly 20 meters and have been reported to swim as far as Sixty meters.

10. Cormorants


Diving for food really is in a day’s activity for cormorants. These swimming birds can stay submerged for up to 30 to 70 seconds and have been seen to swim as far as 45 meters.

Cormorants swim rapidly and move gracefully across the water because of their robust wings. They push themselves ahead with their flippers fee and steer utilizing their tails.

Cormorants utilize their strong beaks to take fish directly out from the water after they’ve located it. They subsequently eat their prey whole without pausing to collect their breath.

11. Penguins


The Emperor penguins can swim more than 454 meters and remain underwater for more than 30 mins on a single breath! The typical dive is approximately 272 meters deep and take approximately 18 minutes.

Penguins can dive so deeply due to many adaptations. Their wings are waterproof, and their body is coated in an oily coating that reduces drag.

They do have a rather effective circulatory system, which aids in oxygen conservation when submerged.

12. Puffins


Atlantic puffins could be observed diving through into the ocean from far above in summer and fall to capture fish. They frequently stay down for 20 to 30 seconds and have also been reported to swim to depths of about 60 meters (197 ft).

Puffin dives are normally brief, although they may swim for large distances submerged. During hunting for food, they utilize their wings as effective oars, moving them backward and forward between.

The puffin will emerge upon catching a fish and consume it head foremost. Then it will take some deep breaths prior to actually jumping back in for the next catch.

13. Coots


Coots are tiny, black water birds native to North America and Eurasia near water sources. They can remain underwater for approximately 15 seconds and are very well suited to swimming and diving.

They have also been observed to swim to depths of up to 7 meters. Coots push themselves through the water with their flipper’s feet and capture fish with their keen beaks.

They can dive rapidly and effectively, making them challenging prey for other aquatic creatures.

14. Geese


Many people associate geese with the creatures that waddle around on the ground. These birds, meanwhile, are excellent swimmers and divers. In reality, a flock of geese may dive about 12 meters deep and stay down for 10 – 15 seconds.

The webbed feet of geese contribute to their ability to swim and dive. These appendages function as paddles, helping the geese to glide effortlessly across the water. Furthermore, the birds’ feathers include an oil coating that keeps them dry during diving.

Geese can also dive and swim submerged due to their robust respiratory system. Their lungs are uniquely modified to use oxygen from the water, enabling them to remain deep in the water for a long pe time.

15. American Dipper

American Dipper

Cinclus mexicanus (American dipper) is a tiny songbird of the family Cinclus. In this family, this is the only bird that can be spotted in North America.

The American dipper may be found from central Mexico to Alaska in western North America. They may be found in a wide range of water settings, especially lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds.

The modifications of American dippers enable them to dwell submerged for long periods of time. Their plumage is extremely oily, which aids in keeping them waterproof. They do have a coating of fat deposits that keeps them warm while submerged.

Their beak is uniquely suited to gather food submerged, and their feet are webbed. This tiny bird can swim up to 6 meters and remain underwater for up to 15 seconds.

16. Anhingas


Anhingas are among the few birds capable of diving and swimming underwater for even more than one minute. They can swim about 18 meters deep in looking for food, which mainly consists of amphibians, fish, and crabs.

Anhingas have several features that assist them in remaining underwater for a long time. They have an extremely flexible neck that enables them to tilt their heads in all directions to find prey under the water.

In addition, unlike pelicans and ducks, they possess wide webbed feet that offer speed when diving, and their plumage is not water-repellent.

17. Terns

Common Tern

A tern is a seabird distinguished by its long and narrow wings. Terns are typically white with black patterns on their wings.

They may be spotted on both the east and west coasts of North America. Terns are skilled fliers who can dive below for a few seconds to capture fish.

They normally dive approximately 20 inches deep but may reach as down as three feet if necessary.


Many bird species have perfected diving and swimming capabilities and may be classified into various families and groups, most of which feature on this list!

These creatures demonstrate how lively and magnificent our world’s birds could be.


Which of the following is the biggest diving bird?

The Sub-Antarctic wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) has the greatest wingspan of any bird. This species’ maximum proportions include an estimated head-to-tail dimension of 4.7 feet (1.44 meters) and a wingspan of 12.0 feet (3.65 meters).

What is the identity of the fish-diving bird?

The cormorant jumps into the waters, gets the fish, and returns it to the ship, in which the operator collects it. During the 1940s, there have been a lot of double-crested cormorants.

What do diving birds go by?

These swimming seabirds are sometimes referred to as “pursuit divers.” Gannets, boobies, pelicans, terns, and other seabirds use the power generated by falling vertically from the air into the water to push themselves underwater in search of food.

What types of birds visit a pond or river?

Aquatic birds comprise Pelecanu, Shorebirds, Kingfishers, and various birds of prey like sea eagles and ospreys. These gorgeous birds have evolved the capacity to eat in water utilizing their long legs, as well as dive in the water to grab food or fish.

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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