While humans can swim and have built machines that allow us to fly through the air, there are some animals that can fly and swim naturally. They’re born with these talents and use their wings, buoyancy, and/or diving abilities to travel in the water or air. Here’s information put together about 10 of these fascinating animals and their skills. Enjoy!
10 animals that can fly and swim
Here’s a list of 10 animals that have mastered the art of navigating both the seas and skies, and not all of them are birds!
1. Northern gannet
Scientific name: Morus bassanus
The northern gannet is a graceful bird with a wide wingspan almost 7 feet wide. When soaring through the air they can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. However, they are also one of the birds with the most accurate diving abilities.
With their nests typically against cliffs to protect themselves from predators, they also have better access to food. These birds will drop from extremely high cliffs and plunge 72 feet underwater. They use their excellent eyesight for accuracy and catch their prey underwater with their feet and wings.
2. American white pelican
Scientific name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
American white pelicans are unique-looking birds with long beaks and throat pouches that they use to catch fish. You can typically find these large social birds living by lakes, coastlines, and rivers.
While not so skilled at walking on the ground, these birds can fly for 24 hours and cover 100 miles, usually in V-formations. They also have webbed feet and strong legs that make them excellent swimmers.
3. Pacific gull
Scientific name: Larus pacificus
Pacific gulls are scavenger birds that prefer living near the seashore or coastline. While their main diet is fish, these birds also break shells to eat mussels or crabs. They are strong flyers averaging a height of 50 feet above sea level but can also dive to depths of 40 feet when hunting. They use their webbed feet to row and propel them through the water.
4. Magpie goose
Scientific name: Anseranas semipalmata
Magpie geese can fly long distances and at speeds over 30 miles per hour. You can usually find these birds native to North America near rivers, wetlands, and coastal areas. You’ll see them using their webbed feet for swimming above the surface of the water, especially when leading their young.
5. Atlantic puffin
Scientific name: Fratercula arctica
Atlantic puffins are stocky seabirds that may not look agile but are excellent flyers and swimmers. These birds can maintain heights 30 feet above the water and fly at around 55 miles per hour.
Their diet mostly consists of fish and their webbed feet let them dive to depths of 200 feet when hunting. They often dive down from flight and appear to “fly underwater.” However, they can only stay underwater for around 30 seconds.
6. Mallard duck
Scientific name: Anas platyrhynchos
Mallard ducks are very common in the U.S., with the males having recognizable green heads. These ducks are strong flyers, clocking in speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They can also travel 800 miles during an 8-hour flight. When on the water, they use their webbed feet to help them swim and will do the typical “duck dive” with their buts in the air and stiff-tail for leverage to feed near the water surface.
7. Common murres
Scientific name: Uria aalge
Common murres have the nickname “flying penguins” because of their incredible ability to move through the water. They are known to be able to “fly underwater” with their powerful wings. While they commonly dive around 100 feet underwater, the record for the deepest dive is 550 feet.
On top of being excellent swimmers, they can also fly strongly after only 39 days old. Using fast wing beats, these birds can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour during flight. They typically spend most of their time in the sky or water, retiring to the land only to nest.
8. American dippers
Scientific name: Cinclus mexicanus
American dippers are the only species of songbird that can swim well, including diving to depths of 20 feet underwater. They can even walk along the river floor as they hunt for insects and fish eggs. Sometimes they will swim to the surface and pick up floating insects. These birds can also fly to catch insects mid-air.
Their ability to stay underwater for long periods is due to:
- Their waterproof feathers
- The extra oxygen in their blood
- Their nasal flap that prevents water from flooding their noses
9. Flying fish
Scientific family: Exocoetidae
Flying fish have streamlined shapes that allow them to escape predators in the water or air swiftly. They will propel themselves upwards, break the water’s surface, and skim along the water with their tails before elevating into the air.
Their pectoral fins allow them to go as high as 4 feet and far as 650 feet. These fish can fly above the water at speeds of 35 miles per hour! They are also one of the top 10 fastest fish, using their streamlined bodies to reach speeds of up to 37 miles per hour.
10. Mobula rays
Scientific genus: Mobula
Also called flying rays or devil rays, Mobula rays are cartilaginous fish that are closely related to sharks. They are also another species on this list native to the ocean that can soar through the air. These rays have slender bodies with wing-like pectoral fins that are designed to help them fly through the air. They can elevate to heights over 6.5 feet before returning to the water.
When they enter the water, they make a loud smacking sound as they strike the surface. Witnessing a group of these rays exploding out of the water is comparable to watching popcorn pop, especially with the sounds of their water entry. Scientists believe this is a form of communication to help them attract mates.