Can Pigeons Swim? | No, but they can float!

In this article, I’ll discuss a common question related to pigeons, can pigeons swim or not? I’ll explain why they can’t swim and then give a brief overview of their ability to float over the water!

Imagine, it’s a hot summer day and everyone is thirsty. Then, you see some pigeons hovering around a public fountain or a swimming pool and drinking water from there.

As soon as you approached them, probably they have splashed water over you and you enjoyed this cutest thing. It would have made you think that pigeons love water and they dive in the water to refresh themselves.

Without the proper knowledge, you want to try this with your cute little pigeon at home? Then, you are absolutely wrong!

Pigeons, being non-aquatic birds, are not a huge fan of water. They may sit for hours near water, drink plenty of it, sprinkle few droplets over themselves as a refreshment but they can’t swim in the water. It’s mainly due to their features not having the water repellent lipid capability that enables aquatic birds to swim inside water without getting their features wet. If pigeons dip themselves inside the water, they may get their features wet that won’t make them unable to fly!

However, they do float with little water repellent feature their features have. One can say that little wet wings do not bother them. But, they can’t swim like other aquatic birds!

Now, why can’t pigeons swim would be our today’s topic!

No doubt, there are some birds that can fly as well as swim. You may have seen Puffins, Diving ducks, and Dippers swimming inside open ponds and lakes. Now you will be wondering if these birds can swim so why can’t the pigeons?

Well, the answer is their body structure. They aren’t the “aquatic birds” just like the ones mentioned above. It’s the outer structure of their body that makes them either “aquatic” or “non-aquatic”.

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Pigeons are non-aquatic birds

Never heard about the aquatic birds and their body structure? Well, let’s discuss them before moving on!

The aquatic birds have thin layers of water repellent lipid or other chemicals on their feathers. So, when they dive, their feathers do not get wet and stay dry. That makes it easy for them to swim inside the water. This water repellent property is also found in insects as well in some plants, for instance, water lilies.

Indeed, it’s a very good adaptation but pigeons do not have this layer. So when they dive, their feathers become heavy with water and it becomes very difficult for them to swim. And, with those wet wings, they can’t fly immediately. They have to wait for some time until they are dried.

Pigeons Fear stops them from swimming

So, fear can be another reason why they do not go into water. Fear of what? Their predators!

Imagine, they are drying up their features after a smoothing bath and before they are able to fly, they may see a predator approaching them. Now, what is it that they can do to save their life?

They’ll simply become the meal of their enemy. Thus, eventually, losing the battle of life is worse than not diving inside the water. So, that can be one of the reasons why pigeons don’t swim!

Pigeons can float

You have got an answer to these questions that can pigeons swim or not? But, wait, it’s true that they can float over water?. Well yes, but do not get excited, they can do this for a short span of time.

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Guess what, their wings and overall body structure are also involved in their floating ability. Let’s briefly explain it. What they do during floating is to open their wings fully and broaden their tail. This technique helps them to have more surface area which gives them better buoyancy. This makes them able to float over the surface of the water.

You might be wondering that if they are not meant for water then why they float? Why they do this? Don’t floating also wet their features and makes them unable to fly? Now you will be amazed to know the secret behind this. Pigeons are very intelligent in this regard.

During summers, they come near water spreading their wings and tail, and fall on the water. They know that if their feathers will be waterlogged they can be at risk so they do not do this. Rather, they only wet the upper side of their feathers instead of submerging them fully.

They do this very quickly to wet the wings not to water-logged them. One can’t say that their features have a water repellent effect. Of course, there is but not as good as ducks and other aquatic birds have. So, although, they can’t swim, they can float easily.

Every animal cleans himself so you will be wondering how pigeons do this? They sit near the water and gently clean their body with water with their feathers. This cleans them as well as cools them.

How other body parts restricts Pigeons from swimming?

Now let’s move on to the other body parts. If you like diving in the water you will probably wear a diving suit. Right? Have you noticed that the shape of the foot was like webbed feet? Same as a duck?

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The area between the fingers of a duck is webbed. It means there is a layer that connects the finger. The ducks use them as peddles which gives them the thrust to move in the water. The same is the case with the diving suit.

But, unfortunately, pigeons do not have those webbed feet. Like humans, there are spaces among their toes. So, this attribute makes them unfit to swim.

How to take care of pigeon at home?

But if someone is having pigeons as a pet you have to do a lot of care. Since they are not in the wild but in the domestic environment, bathing them is your own responsibility.

You can also give your pigeon a bath. Make sure that the water is not too hot or too cold. Bathing regularly helps them to stay healthy!

But, do make sure that they are not completely submerged in the water. Sometimes. Pigeons get panic so you have to handle them with care as they might drown themselves. Gently put water over the pigeon and open the wings slowly to clean them.

After giving a bath, take the pigeon out and let it dry itself. You can also use a hairdryer for this purpose or just let the pigeon sit in the sunlight. And, finally, give your pigeon some treat so that he will be happy.

Final Thoughts!

Lastly, I would ask you to think again, you would have only seen the pigeons near water rather than taking a bath? Right? They do this to keep themselves hydrated and healthy. So, next time some asks you, can pigeon swim?, your answer should be “Pigeons are meant to conquer the heights not to measure the depths of water.

Kathy Gonzales

I'm an author of I have kept pigeons as pets for over 20 years and have written several articles. Here in this blog, I cover topics such as how to care for pigeons, what to feed them, and how to keep them healthy.