29 Birds that Can Swim (A to Z List with Pictures)

Birds that Can Swim

Examples of birds that can swim include American coots, American dippers, anhinga, arctic tern, and Atlantic puffin.

While most birds are content to stick to land, a few species have adapted to life in the water. The most well-known swimming bird is probably the penguin, but several types of ducks, geese, and swans are equally at home in the water.

In addition, some birds, like the cormorant, use their powers of swimming to help them catch fish. Unlike other birds that simply paddle across the surface of the water, cormorants dive deep in search of their next meal.

Examples of Birds that Can Swim

1. American Coots

Scientific NameFulica americana
Type of AnimalBird
RangeDuring the summer, these birds are found centered around the freshwater lakes and ponds of the northern United States and southern Canada

These black birds are frequently seen swimming in lakes and ponds, but they are just as comfortable walking on land. Their legs are so short that they often have to run across the water to get airborne.

Related Article: 30 Birds that Fly South for Winter

2. American Dipper

Scientific NameCinclus mexicanus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeon fast-flowing mountain streams and cold coastal streams of western North America and Central America

This small, dark bird is more at home in streams than anywhere else. It can be found bobbing along on rocks in the fast-moving water or standing still on a branch waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting fish.

Related Article: 29 Birds that Run

3. Anhinga

Scientific NameAnhinga anhinga
Type of AnimalBird
RangeFlorida. It is also found from coastal sections of South Carolina westward to Texas and Mexico, and even south to Argentina

The anhinga is a long, thin bird that spends most of its time in the water. It has olive-brown feathers and a long, snake-like neck. When it dives for fish, it often swims completely under the water.

4. Arctic Tern

Scientific NameSterna paradisaea
Type of AnimalBird
Range Antarctica

This small bird breeds in the Arctic Circle and spends the winter in Antarctica. Along the way, it stops on various islands in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Arctic tern has been known to travel more than 30,000 kilometers in a year, making it one of the longest-distance migrants of any animal.

5. Atlantic Puffin

Scientific NameFratercula arctica
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth Atlantic Ocean

These unique birds are excellent swimmers and can even fly underwater. When hunting for fish, they will dive from the surface and swim up to 60 feet (18 meters) below. To help them achieve this feat, their wings are specially adapted to act like flippers.

6. Black Swan

Scientific NameCygnus atratus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesoutheast and southwest Australia and Tasmania

The Black Swan is a species of waterfowl that is native to Australia. These birds are known for their black plumage, which is a striking contrast to the white plumage of most other swans. Black Swans are also larger than most other swan species, with adults typically weighing between 8 and 12 kg (18-26 lbs).

These birds are found in a variety of habitats, including wetlands, lakes, and rivers. Black Swans typically eat aquatic plants, but they will also consume small animals if given the opportunity.

7. Black Tern

Scientific NameChlidonias niger
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNests in freshwater marshes and bogs; winters in coastal lagoons, marshes, and open ocean waters

This bird is found in both North and South America. It breeds near freshwater marshes and lakes, but during the winter it can be found in coastal waters. The black tern feeds on small fish, insects, and crustaceans.

8. Boobies

Scientific NameSula
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethe Pacific from southern California to northern Peru and on the Galápagos Islands

Boobies are a type of seabird that can be found throughout the tropical oceans of the world. These birds are excellent swimmers and can often be seen diving into the water in pursuit of fish. Boobies typically nest on remote islands or coastlines, making them difficult for predators to reach.

9. Brown Pelicans

Scientific NamePelecanus occidentalis
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeon the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific Coasts in the Americas

The brown pelican is a large bird with a long neck and a bill. It has brownish-black plumage, a white belly, and large webbed feet. These birds are excellent swimmers and can often be seen diving for fish. Brown pelicans are found along coastlines in the Americas and typically nest in colonies.

Related Article: 19 Birds that Look Like Pelicans

10. Common Loons

Scientific NameGavia immer
Type of AnimalBird
RangeGreenland, Iceland, and northern North America

These large, black-and-white birds are often seen swimming on lakes and ponds. Their long necks and webbed feet help them move gracefully through the water, and their waterproof feathers keep them warm and dry. Loons use their powerful beaks to catch fish, which they swallow whole.

11. Common Tern

Scientific NameSterna hirundo
Type of AnimalBird
Rangealong the Atlantic coast from Labrador to North Carolina, and inland throughout much of Canada east of the Rocky Mountains

A bird that spends most of its time near water, the common tern is a graceful flier and an expert fisherman. This seabird can be found along coastlines around the world, where it hunts for small fish to eat.

The common tern is also known for its long-distance migrations; some populations travel more than 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) each year between their breeding and wintering grounds.

12. Cormorants

Scientific NamePhalacrocoracidae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangealong the shores of the Atlantic Ocean from Labrador down to the tip of Florida

The cormorant is a water bird with long, thin legs and a long neck. It has webbed feet and can swim powerfully, using its wings to help it dive. Cormorants are found near coasts and in inland waterways around the world. They often perch on rocks or branches near the water’s edge, waiting to pounce on their next meal.

13. Diving-Petrels​​​​​​​

Scientific NamePelecanoides
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNew Zealand islands such as the Solander Islands, Snares Islands, Chatham Islands, Auckland Islands

Diving petrels are small seabirds that get their name from their habit of feeding by diving into the water to catch small fish and squid. These birds breed on islands off the coast of New Zealand and Chile, spending most of their time at sea. Diving petrels are among the deepest diving birds in the world, reaching depths of more than 30 meters.

14. Ducks

Scientific NameAnatidae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeplaces where there is water like ponds, streams, and rivers

Ducks are a type of bird that is adapted to swimming. They have webbed feet, which helps them move through the water easily. Ducks also have waterproof feathers, which keep them dry and warm while they are swimming.

15. Gannets

Scientific NameMorus
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorthern Gannet breeds in only six well-established Canadian colonies

Gannets are large, white birds that live along coasts and on offshore rocks and islands. They dive into the sea to catch fish, often plunging from great heights. Gannets have long, pointed wings and black-tipped tail feathers. Their bills are yellow with a hooked tip, and their eyes are blue.

Gannets breed in colonies on rocky cliffs or islands. They build their nests of seaweed, grass, and sticks high above the ground, sometimes using their own body heat to incubate their eggs. Both parents feed the chicks until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

16. Geese

Scientific NameAnser
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America, Central America, South America, Eurasia, Australia, Africa, and more.

Geese are waterfowl that are members of the bird family Anatidae. This group includes ducks, swans, and geese. Geese are typically larger than ducks and have longer necks. They are also more aggressive than ducks. Most geese live in temperate or cold climates and breed during the springtime.

17. Giant Coot

Scientific NameFulica gigantea
Type of AnimalBird
Rangelakes in the altiplano from central Peru, through western Bolivia, to north-eastern Chile and extreme north-western Argentina

These big birds look a lot like ducks, but they’re actually members of the rail family. Giant coots are found in South America, and they’re excellent swimmers. These birds can often be seen swimming in lakes and rivers, with their heads bobbing above the water.

18. Great White Pelican

Scientific NamePelecanus onocrotalus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeswamps, freshwater lakes, brackish lakes, marshes, and deltas of Africa (Asia and Europe).

These birds are some of the largest flying birds in the world, with a wingspan that can reach almost 10 feet. They use their size and strength to their advantage, swooping down on schools of fish and scooping them up in their large beaks.

19. Horned Grebes

Scientific NamePodiceps auritus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangemostly on northern marshes in summer, and coastal bays in winter. Also widespread in Eurasia

Horned grebes are small water birds with long, sharp bills. They are excellent swimmers and can often be seen diving for fish. Horned grebes have a distinctive breeding plumage, with black heads and necks and white stripes running down the sides of their faces.

20. Least Tern

Scientific NameSternula antillarum
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeareas along the coasts of Florida including estuaries and bays, as well as areas around rivers in the Great Plains

The Least Tern is the smallest member of the tern family. It can be found in coastal areas throughout the world. These tiny birds are only about 9 inches long and have a wingspan of 18 inches.

Least Terns primarily eat fish, but they will also eat insects and crustaceans. To catch their prey, they dive into the water from a height of 10-30 feet.

21. Mute Swans

Scientific NameCygnus olor
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeaquatic habitats ranging from urban lakes and farm ponds to coastal estuaries

The Mute Swan is a large white bird with an orange beak. These birds are native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Mute swans are the heaviest flying birds in the world, with some males weighing over 15 kg (33 pounds). Mute swans live near lakes, rivers, and wetlands. In winter, they often migrate to warmer areas.

22. Pacific Loon

Scientific NameGavia pacifica
Type of AnimalBird
Rangenorthern Canada and eastern Siberia, and winters along the Pacific coast of North America

The Pacific loon is a type of diving bird that can be found in the northern parts of North America. These birds spend most of their time on large bodies of water, where they use their powerful swimming skills to catch fish.

23. Penguins

Scientific NameSpheniscidae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeAntarctic coasts and sub-Antarctic islands

Penguins are a type of bird that is adapted to live in the water. They have webbed feet and feathers that are waterproof, which helps them to swim. Penguins live in cold climates, such as Antarctica, and use their swimming abilities to hunt for food.

24. Royal Tern

Scientific NameThalasseus maximus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangealong the Gulf Coast and southern Atlantic Coast, less numerous in California

The royal tern is a type of seabird that can be found along coastlines in the southern parts of the United States, as well as in Central and South America. These birds get their name from their regal appearance, which includes a black cap on their head and a long, curved bill.

Royal terns are also known for their striking orange-red beak and legs. While they do spend some time on land, royal terns are most at home on the water where they can be seen swimming and diving in search of fish.

25. Shearwaters

Scientific NameProcellariiformes
Type of AnimalBird
Rangein the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, mostly in tropical waters; in North America, it is regular over warm waters off the southeastern coast

These long-winged, dark-colored birds look somewhat like small albatrosses. There are more than 70 species of shearwaters, and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Most shearwaters nest on remote islands, coming ashore only to mate and raise their young. When they’re not nesting, shearwaters spend most of their time far out at sea, where they use their webbed feet to paddle through the water in search of small fish and squid.

26. Tufted Puffins

Scientific NameFratercula cirrhata
Type of AnimalBird
Rangealong the northern Pacific Coast

These small, black-and-white birds are excellent swimmers, using their wings to “fly” through the water in pursuit of fish. Puffins mate for life, and when they’re not swimming or feeding their young, they can often be seen perched on rocks near the shoreline.

27. Tundra Swan

Scientific NameCygnus columbianus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethe remote arctic of North America

The tundra swan is a large bird, similar in size to the trumpeter swan. It has a long neck and a black bill. The body is white with grayish wings. The legs and feet are black.

Tundra swans breed in the Arctic tundra of North America and Eurasia. They build their nests on the ground, among the tundra vegetation. The female lays 3 to 8 eggs, which are incubated for about 30 days.

28. Western Grebe

Scientific NameAechmophorus occidentalis
Type of AnimalBird
RangeCanada through California, and sometimes in Mexico

These long-necked birds are excellent swimmers, and can often be seen swimming in pairs. Western Grebes mate for life, and perform an elaborate courtship dance that involves swimming in circles around each other.

29. Whooper Swan

Scientific NameCygnus cygnus
Type of AnimalBird
RangeAleutian Islands, Alaska

The whooper swan is a large white bird that is closely related to the more familiar mute swan. These birds are native to North America and Europe, and they typically migrate great distances in order to find suitable habitats. Whooper swans usually live near bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and marshes.


Birds that can swim have evolved to be able to live in both water and air, which gives them a distinct advantage over other birds. The most famous swimming bird is probably the penguin, but there are many other types of birds that can swim including ducks, geese, swans, and even some seabirds.

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