9 Awesome Animals That Can Fly And Swim! with Pictures!

Last updated on February 4th, 2022

There are so many fascinating creatures on this planet, and we hardly even know half of them. Animals that have the ability to both fly and swim are probably one of them. These species never fail to interest animal lovers, and several of them include birds.

Animals that can fly and swim:

  • Grebes
  • Loons
  • Ducks
  • Puffins
  • Gannets
  • Swans
  • Steamer Ducks
  • Cypselurus
  • Cormorants

Here’s a list of the animals that can both fly and swim.

1. Grebes

Animals that fly and swim-grebes

Grebes are aquatic birds in the order of Podicipediformes, which is a family of 22 species.

However, many of these species can be found in marine habitats as well during winter and migration season.

Many people call this diving bird a duck, probably because they look alike. But grebes aren’t ducks, and they have a lot of differences.

In fact, grebes are quite unusual when compared to ducks. One of the main differences between the two species is that grebes have “lobed” toes while ducks have webbed feet.

The lobed toes of grebes are specially designed for swimming and diving.

Besides, these medium-to-large-sized birds have narrow wings, which is why some of them are reluctant to fly. In fact, two South American grebe species are totally flightless.

Grebes can run for short distances, but they tend to fall over as their feet are placed backward on their bodies.

You’ll be surprised to know that grebes respond to approaching danger by diving and not by flying.

This proves how reluctant these species are when it comes to flying.

Many researchers believe that these diving birds are the successors of the extinct animal species waterbird genus Juncitarsus.

Furthermore, grebes have an unusual plumage structure. On the underside, all the feathers are positioned at right angles to their skin and have curls at the tip.

Also, the feathers of the grebes are waterproof and dense.

2. Loons

Animals that fly and swim-loon

Loons are diving aquatic birds found in various regions of North America as well as northern Eurasia.

All the loon species are members of the Gavia genus in the Gaviidae family. These migratory carnivore species are great swimmers because their legs are located to the rear of their bodies.

However, due to this body part being an advantage when swimming, it becomes a disadvantage when they’re walking on land as it causes them to look silly or clumsy.

While swimming, loons may resemble ducks or geese in shape. Also, all of these species have webbed feet, which are particularly designed for active swimmers.

When in flight, loons may look similar to plump geese with relatively smaller wings of seagulls.

When compared to other aquatic birds, a loon’s head droops during flight. Loons also point their head in a slightly upward direction at the time of swimming.

Loons closely resemble cormorants, and they’re actually considered close relatives of each other.

The male and female loon species have shades of grey on their neck and head as well as an identical plumage with black and white patterns in the summer months.

In the winter, however, their plumage is characterized by dark grey shades above with white underside, throat, and chin.

Besides, loons have white bellies and closely resemble many species of sea ducks, specifically the common goldeneyes.

Moreover, all the loon species have spear-shaped bills.

These aquatic birds mainly eat fish. However, they’re sometimes seen feeding on snails, frogs, and crayfish as well.

Loons usually prefer habitats in and around clear waters that help them spot and catch their prey easily.

Apart from being excellent divers and swimmers, loons are powerful flyers.

They may have difficulties during takeoffs, but once they take flight and reach a certain height in the air, they’ll fly at tremendous speeds of at least 75 miles per hour!

3. Ducks

Animals that fly and swim-duck

Ducks and rivers or ponds go hand-in-hand, it’s difficult to imagine one without the other.

Ducks are among one of the many species of waterfowl and are native to North and South America.

These popular freshwater birds are known for their webbed feet, their particular bone structure, and their waterproof feathers.

These special characteristics allow these aquatic birds to fly fast, up to 40 to 60 miles per hour.

The duck species are diurnal, which means that most of them fly during the day.

After discussing the flying abilities of ducks, let’s see their ability as swimmers. Yes, ducks aren’t just fast flyers, they’re excellent swimmers too.

In fact, we commonly see ducks swimming in lakes and ponds. These aquatic birds can also be found in both freshwater and seawater.

Did you know that ducks can remain underwater for about a minute? Diving is important for ducks to catch fish, aquatic plants, and insect larvae.

Ducks are usually shorter-necked and are a smaller species than geese and swans.

4. Puffins

Animals that fly and swim-puffin

People often confuse puffins with penguins, mostly due to their black and white plumage. But these two swimming animals come from totally different families.

Puffins, like some other bird species, can swim, walk and fly! Puffins have short wings that are not only adapted for swimming but also for displaying smooth flying techniques.

This is why puffins can swim well underwater in a manner that looks like they’re “flying” underwater with their wings!

It’s just that their wings are strong enough to resist the force of water. This makes these creatures so fascinating.

Apart from evolved, high-speed wings, these pelagic seabirds have webbed feet, allowing them to swim underwater, where they catch small fishes, such as sand eel and herring.

What’s more surprising is, Atlantic puffins can hold their breath underwater for up to 1 minute after diving to a depth of 200 feet.

The secret behind such higher resistance, especially after diving, is that puffins fold their wings partly while the hand wings are directed backward.

Furthermore, puffins can flap their wings extremely fast, which is why they can accelerate forward and upwards through the water during the downstroke.

The exact opposite happens during upstroke – the wing movements are accelerated downwards and sometimes forward as well.

An interesting fact about puffins is that they can catch an average of 10-20 small fish in a single dive.

Also, puffins have an average flying speed of 55 miles per hour, however, they must flap their wings around 280 to 400 beats per minute to remain airborne because they’re poor fliers.

5. Gannets

Animals that fly and swim-gannets

Gannets are beautiful, large, white birds that are known for having a peach shade on their head.

However, it’s possible to see a yellowish shade from their head whenever the sun is shining brightly.

The long bills and black-tipped wings are among the bird’s other physical attributes.

These bird species are also the largest seabirds in and around the North Atlantic region.

The Cape gannet species is normally found in South Africa whereas the Australasian gannet can be found in Tasmania and the coast of New Zealand.

Gannets, too, prey on fish by diving underwater from a certain height.

To make it easier for gannets to catch their prey easily, they’ve got a couple of ways to accomplish this.

  • Gannets have air sacs under the skin in the face and chest areas. These air sacs function similarly to a bubble wrap that cushions the harsh impact or force of the water after diving.
  • These creatures have their nostrils inside the mouth rather than outside.
  • For effective binocular vision, gannets’ are able to figure out and measure distances more accurately. Also, their eyes are conveniently positioned far enough forward to enable this type of vision.

Furthermore, gannets are known to have a voracious appetite as they can catch and feed on large counties of fish species.

Even though gannets may look docile when in groups, they can defend themselves quite powerfully using bite forces.

Also, before plunging into the water, gannets have an average speed of 75 miles per hour.

Upon a dive of such speed, gannets can hold their breaths anywhere from 30-45 seconds underwater.

6. Swans

Animals that fly and swim-swan

Swans are among the largest extant members of the Anatidae family, which is a family of waterfowl.

Swans are also one of the largest flying birds in the world. This long-necked waterbird also belongs to the Duck family and is commonly found in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America.

Like ducks, swans, too, have webbed feet which enables them to swim fast.

Besides, they have glossy feathers that cover almost their entire body.

Swans have an average of 20-30 years lifespan.

Swans can’t dive using similar techniques as ducks, which is why they have toes rather than claws.

Due to their long necks, swans can’t really catch so much fish in one go.

Whenever swans feed on vegetables, they’ll usually bob their heads backward to reach the food. (similar to how cows eat).

Swans can reach flying speeds of up to 18 to 30 mph.

Besides, although they’re great swimmers, they don’t prefer to use that skill much, maybe because these majestic birds want to keep their heads high in the air.

Also, swans use their beaks to clean themselves while swimming or staying afloat in shallow water.

7. Steamer Ducks

Animals that fly and swim-steamer duck

These aquatic birds belong to the genus Tachyeres and the family Anatidae.

Steamer ducks can fly well, however, some male steamer ducks can’t fly due to their huge size and wing weight.

These birds are quite aggressive and may chase off predators.

Besides, bloody battles are also commonly seen among steamer ducks as they fight with intruders or defend themselves during territorial disputes.

Also, you’ll be surprised to hear that these species can even kill waterbirds that are seven times larger than themselves.

8. Cypselurus

Yellow wing flying fish Cypselurus 08 08 2021

Cypselurus can be categorized as a genus of flying fish belonging to the Exocoetidae family where there are a total of 12 species in this genus.

Whenever the Cypselurus accelerates while partially in the water, it can spread its pectoral fins causing it to rise in the air and take flight, the fish spreads its pelvic fins, which helps to elevate the posterior portion of its body.

These exciting fish species are known to make 12 consecutive flights, each of which may reach up to 400 m distances.

During the glides, the pectoral and pelvic fins are spread out, serving as aerofoils.

If the Cypselurus is kept in an aquarium where it’s placed close to the top, it’ll break through the water surface to escape, which can cause accidents.

9. Cormorants

Animals that fly and swim-cormorant

The cormorants are aquatic birds that belong to the Phalacrocoracidae family which consists of 40 species.

These birds normally inhabit freshwater environments, however, they’re also found around large inland lakes across North America.

The different species in the Phalacrocoracidae family line have long beaks with a slight curve at the end forming a hook.

The cormorants have an average speed of 30-35 miles per hour and they also fly in groups while forming a V-shape.

These bird species will have a difficult time flying because of their short wings, however, this size of wing works to their advantage when they’re diving as it allows them to move quickly underwater.

Cormorants are known for diving deep into the water, with some reported cases being up to 150 ft underwater.

FAQ Roundup

Scroll to Top