Can Eagles Swim? Explained!

Last updated on November 1st, 2022

It was a surprise when I came across a video of a bald eagle swimming. I was always under the impression that eagles cannot swim.

It is a common notion that birds like ducks, seagulls, and penguins are excellent swimmers. This is because their natural habitats are also near water bodies.

But would you believe it if I told you that bald eagles could swim quite well and use their wings to help them move in the water?

Eagles can swim even though swimming is not a natural activity for them, and water bodies are not their natural habitats, still, they have mastered this ability probably because fish is one of the creatures that eagles are known to hunt.

They have excellent eyesight, and they often hunt fish, especially when they have young ones to feed. 

bald eagle swimming 26052022

How do bald eagles swim?

Eagles swim by using the butterfly stroke since their wings allow them to do this in an avian style.

If you have ever seen an eagle dive, you will find it is one of the most beautiful movements made by the bird.

An eagle can dive into a water body even when it is in full flight and it will catch hold of the fish with its claws.

Then when does the eagle swim? Here are the answers to the question.

Do eagles swim using their wings?

Yes, the bald eagle will swim using its wings as paddles. It uses its wings to push back the water and move its body forward.

Can eagles swim underwater?

Eagles prefer to keep their head above the water while they swim. Hence, you will find that its head keeps on bobbing up and down while it swims.

Do eagles dive into the water to catch fish?

bald eagle attacking prey in water 26052022

As I mentioned earlier, eagles dive into the water to hunt for fish. But their manner of diving is different from other birds.

If you have observed a kingfisher dive into the water to catch a fish, you will find that it goes head first.

The same applies to ducks, seagulls, and other birds that depend on fish as their primary food source.

But in the case of eagles, fishes are not their primary food source.

Instead, they tend to catch their prey in their sharp claws and then tear it apart with the help of their beaks.

While hunting fish, eagles will use this method so whenever a bald eagle spots a suitable fish near the water’s surface, it will swoop down and grab hold of the fish with its sharp claws.

Eagles are known as one of the animals that eat fish. Once it has caught the fish, it can bite into its flesh with its sharp beak.

How deep can an eagle dive in water?

The depth to which an eagle has to dive depends on the position of the fish. If the fish is right on the water’s surface, the eagle will not have to dive into the water.

However, an eagle will swim when it has dived into the water of no more than a foot depth.

This is the maximum depth to which an eagle can dive into the water. In most cases, eagles tend to dive only six inches underwater from the surface.

A bald eagle was indeed caught on camera swimming beautifully, but when it comes to diving, it does not enter the water like a kingfisher.

Can eagles survive in water?

Yes, eagles can survive in water, but not for many hours.

However, as per the video on the Internet, you will find that the bald eagle can swim with absolute ease.

This means eagles can survive in water. However, this may not be true for all species of eagles.

Nevertheless, all species of eagles can hunt fish which means they can survive in water for a short period.

Interestingly, one of the fastest flying birds and one of those birds that can fly at great heights can also survive in water.

What happens when eagles get wet?

Eagles prefer not to get wet because they have a heavy plumage.

The thick plumage of eagles is necessary to help the bird fly which in turn makes them more aerodynamic.

An eagle will avoid flying when it gets wet from rain or after diving into a water body.

You will find that the eagle will wait for its feathers to dry.

Then, it will continuously shake its wings, head, and entire body to dislodge the excess water.

Therefore, it is essential to get the plumage dry to make it easier for the bird to fly.

Moreover, if the eagle’s plumage does not dry fast, it makes the bird vulnerable.

Eagles are predatory birds, but their ability to fly at great heights sets them apart from other birds and animals.

Thus, when their plumage gets wet, they tend to avoid going out of the safety of their nest.

Can eagles fly in the rain?

When it rains, eagles, like other birds, will avoid flying.

This is because eagles do not have waterproof feathers, and their plumage can get quite wet and heavy if they try flying in the rain.

If necessary, they will fly short distances in the rain; otherwise, they will try to stay at a safe spot on the branch of a tree or a ledge where it is sheltered from the rain.

Here are some questions answered about eagles flying in the rain.

Can eagles fly with wet wings?

Eagles do not have waterproof feathers, so they prefer to avoid getting their plumage wet.

But if it does get wet, the bird needs to continue flying. Eagles do not fly if their wings or feathers get very wet in most cases.

However, if the wings are only slightly wet, the eagle can continue to fly. This is why you will find that eagles can dive into the water, catch their prey and fly out.

They can complete this entire act with a single swoop and wet feathers. You will find that the eagle’s flight speed is not affected even though its feathers are wet.

Can eagles fly above the clouds?

Eagles can fly above clouds, this not only helps them keep their feathers dry but the wingspans of the eagles are wide enough to help them lock in a fixed position even in fierce weather conditions. 

They can also quickly rise above a storm cloud, which helps them survive dangerous storms.

An eagle usually tries to climb above clouds during a storm.

What do eagles do to survive storms?

In the case of storms, the thing that eagles need to survive is the heavy rains. Here the eagles need to protect their feathers from getting wet.

Although eagles can fly above the clouds, it is difficult for them to stay in this position for a prolonged period.

Sometimes eagles can seek shelter on the leeward side of trees to protect themselves from strong winds.

Hence, once the wind speeds have reduced, eagles will start looking for safe places to stay to survive the rains.

The wind speed and rainwater falling on the tree are also reduced on the leeward sides. Thus, it gives more protection to the eagles.

Similarly, the ledge of buildings can also give them protection from the rains. They can also stay perched on branches of trees with thick foliage to prevent getting wet.

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