7 Birds That Dive for Fish (Interesting to Note Number 3)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Do birds dive for fishes? Absolutely yes!

Birds varies in types based on their survival and feeding strategies and one of these feeding strategies is the ability to dive deep into the water for food.

Not all birds can dive for fishes, but the ones that are blessed with the ability to to dive are referred to as Diving Birds.

These species of bird are capable of plunging into the water to catch fish and other food.

Generally, these birds possess some features that makes it possible for them to be able to dive for fishes. Below is a list of 8 birds that dive for fishes and how they can do that.

1. Emperor penguin

Birds That Dive for Fish

Also known as Aptenodytes forsteri, the Emperor Penguin is the world’s deepest diving bird.

They are able to swim with incredible grace and agility and can swim in depth of over 530 meters.

It can also stay for more than fifteen minutes at a time under water. This special ability enables it catch more fishes to feed on.

However, the emperor penguin’s adaptation to life at sea has cost it the ability to fly.

2. Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) – The only North American plunge diving pelican

When it comes to diving depth, the Brown pelican cannot be compared to the Emperor Penguin.

Other pelicans search for their food in flocks but the brown pelican is different.

The pelican spies its prey from 12-18 meter above water surface, then plunge dive toward it head first before scooping it up with its unique pouch like a bill.

3. Osprey

Ospreys are excellent fishers and they eat nothing else but fishes.

99% of their diet is made up of fish, and as a result, these birds can be found in ponds, streams, lakes, rivers and other coastal waterways worldwide.

According to National Geographic, ospreys hunt by diving to the water surface from 30 to 100 feet up.

They possess gripping pads on their feet to to help them pluck fish from water with their curved claws and carry them to great distances.

Ospreys often orient the fish headfirst in flight to ease wind resistance.

They are often confused to be eagles but ospreys are not eagles, however.

Related: Here is an article on birds that fly very low

4. Kingfishers

Kingfishers can dive at a speed of up to 25mph and are capable of catching fish two feet below the surface of the water.

This sacred specie of birds feed on varieties of prey, including crustaceans, frogs, worms, insects, reptiles, spiders and even other birds and mammals (you might even be wondering, are sharks mammals?), but they are well known for hunting and feeding on fishes.

The kingfisher can sight its prey from about 90 meters away, and with few wingbeats, it dives headfirst at a very fast speed, folding its wings tight against both sides of its body and catches a fish almost immediately

5. Cormorants

A Research revealed that cormorant is the common name for 30 species of birds that occur world wide. They are generally known as predators of fishes.

Cormorants are excellent divers and they boast of hooked breaks and large webbed feet which allows them dive beyond the surface and catch fish.

They move under the water with unique and synchronized paddling of both webbed feet, with wings folded up against the body.

Here’s a fun fact about cormorants:

Known for their excellent diving and fishing skills, fishermen have once used cormorants to hunt for fishes.

This traditional fishing method is known as Cormorant Fishing

6. Shearwaters

Shearwaters are mainly divers, capable of diving as deep as 70 meters. They feed on squids, fishes and similar oceanic food.

They can also be found closely following fishing vessels and whales.

The fishing vessels would probably contain some scraps, and the whale will definitely scare schools of prey fish, much to the Shearwaters satisfaction.

They also have the incredible ability to stay underwater for up to fifteen minutes at a time!

7. Loons

Loons are located in North America, Greenland and Iceland, and you will surely find them in lakes and large poems.

They are excellent divers that hunt for fishes. Loons are one of the best diver birds to ever exist and they feed primary on fishes.

They can deep dive up to 250ft in the water and even stay there for up to five minutes. They prey on small fishes, crayfish and shrimps.

Also check out this article I wrote on birds that travel long distances

8. Gannets

Gannets can dive from a height of 100ft, and they often hit the water at a speed up to 86kph.

These birds are quite interesting to watch when diving for fish. It possess a long slender neck with strong muscles that helps its diving business.

Another adaptative feature of this bird that helps it dive for fishes is the absence of external nostrils which prevents forceful entry of water into the head, and airsacs under the skin that cushion the seabird’s breast.


From this article, you can now see that there are lots of birds that dive for fishes and the Emperor penguin is the king of all diving birds.

However, it  lacks a flying ability, making it a diving bird only.

Also, you will discover that these birds possess some distinctive features like lobbed or webbed feet, oily or water proof wings, strong muscles, beaks and body frames which has helped them dive for fishes effortlessly.

Furthermore, there are varieties of diving birds including wing propelled diving birds, foot propelled diving birds and plunge diving birds.

The Emperor Penguin, however belong to the wing propelled diving birds.

Once you already have a knowledge on these birds that dive for fish, I bet you’ll surely have a swell time studying them more!

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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