Can Penguins Swim? (The Truth About Penguins Swimming)

by Chukay Alex
Updated on

Because penguins are actually birds, they do have wings, just like any other bird.

But penguins’ wing structures are designed for swimming rather than traditional flying.

As a result, penguins may reach speeds of 15 to 25 mph while swimming underwater.

Penguins, who are skilled swimmers, invest considerable time in the water. It is not uncommon for penguins to spend up to 75% of their lives submerged in water. However, penguins do lay eggs and nurture their young on land, just like other birds.

When swimming, a penguin keeps its streamlined shape by tucking its head between its shoulders.

In addition, it helps steer by keeping its feet against the tail, near to the body.

Flippers that look like paddles are used by penguins when swimming.

The way penguins move their flippers gives them the impression of flying through the water.

Because water is so much denser than air, penguins need strong wings and breast muscles to fly.

Solid, dense bones aid penguins in reducing their tendency to float.

Are Penguins Good Swimmers?

Can Penguins Swim

The stiffness and density of a penguin’s feathers prevent it from soaring in the air, but it does make it a superb swimmer.

This sort of feather repels water and creates an extremely streamlined surface, which is ideal for water sports!

Can Penguin Stay In Water?

In the sea, penguins may reach speeds of up to 25 mph (15-25 kph). Penguins, who are skilled swimmers, invest considerable time in the water.

It is not uncommon for penguins to spend up to 75% of their lives submerged in water.

However, pennants do lay eggs and nurture their young on land, just like other birds.

Emperor penguins are, without a doubt, the best divers amongst birds.

Although their oxygen should run out in just a fraction of that time, they can dive to depths of over 500 meters and remain submerged for over 20 minutes.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on can penguins breathe underwater

Do Penguins Walk or Swim?

When swimming or diving, penguins are at their most relaxed and graceful.

In order to find a nesting place, members of their colony or to avoid a predator may migrate overland.

Walking speeds of penguins on land vary from species to species, although generally, they are between 1 and 2.5 miles per hour.

Walking takes twice as much energy for penguins as it does for other animals of the same size.

A penguin waddles rather than walks, but this back-and-forth action is an effective way for the penguin to conserve energy.

The legs of penguins are robust, yet they are rather short.

Their large, webbed feet aid them in swimming, and their claws come in handy when they’re trying to cling to ice.

Researchers believe that stomping is more efficient than waddling for penguins with short legs and large feet because it increases the penguin’s center of mass, reduces heat loss, and consumes less total energy.

In addition, penguins spend much of their time in the sea. Therefore their feet and legs are more suited to swimming and diving.

When walking on land, penguins are quite slow even though they can stand up and walk upright.

Penguins like the Rockhopper, a smaller species, will hop rather than walk to get to its cliffside nests.

If the cliffs are particularly gnarly, penguins can use their beaks like an ice pick to help them acquire a firmer footing.

Instead of diving like most penguins, Rockhopper penguins are known for jumping in feet first.

Is A Penguin The Only Bird That Can Swim?

Countless species of birds are capable of swimming across the water.

Birds that live in freshwater areas like rivers and lakes are also known as aquatic birds, and they can be found in both the ocean and freshwater!

They’ve developed unique adaptations that let them float effortlessly on the water. Other birds can swim besides penguins, like:

  • Cormorants 
  • Ducks 
  • Swans
  • Pelicans
  • Loons
  • Coots
  • Puffins
  • Geese
  • Grebes and every other water bird 

Also check out this article I wrote on are penguins friendly

How Far Can Penguins Swim?

Penguins are excellent swimmers and can cover a significant distance in a single stroke.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for species to make the yearly trip from New Zealand to Antarctica and back.

Emperor penguins, by way of comparison, can migrate up to 1,245 kilometers from their breeding grounds.

Tawaki had to swim between 20 km and 80 kilometers every day to cover this distance. This distance may be the fastest a penguin can cover, according to new studies.

An incorrect method used to determine penguin swimming speeds were based on observations of penguins swimming alongside moving ships.

  • Despite their average swimming speed of 10.8 kph, the Emperor has been spotted swimming at 14.4 kph (8.9 mph) (6.7 mph.).
  • King penguins may swim as fast as 12 kph (7.6 mph), but their average speed is between 6.5 and 7.9 kph (4 to 4.9 mph).
  • Swimming at a pace of 7.9 kph is usual for Adélie penguins, but they may reach 30-40 kph in a burst (4.9 mph.). An Adélie penguin can jump up to three meters (9.8 feet) onto an ice floe in the ocean.
  • Compared to great penguins, little penguins move more slowly (approximately 2.5 kph) (1.6 mph.).

How Fast Can Penguins Swim Compared To Humans

Penguins have the good fortune to have an aerodynamic body shape and wings that act like wheels in the water.

These seabirds can swim up to 24 km per hour (15 miles per hour).

There is an 8 km/hr limit on their swimming and a 1.7 mph-to-2.4 mph (2.7 km/hr-to-3.8 km/hr) walking speed range for these creatures.

People can swim up to 5.9 km/hr in open water. Ideally, they should be swimming at 4.5 mph (7.2 km/hr), according to a study conducted recently.

Because of their ability to endure speeds of up to five miles per hour, the Adélie Penguins can travel up to 100 kilometers (60 miles) without a problem.

In addition, penguins can swim 5 to 6 times faster when chasing prey or leopard seals to avoid being caught.

The wings of penguins are different from those of other flying birds in that they produce strength with both light strokes of movement.

In addition, these seabirds’ bodies resemble fish, which are fusiform in outline and pose little competition in the water.

Can Baby Penguins Swim?

Baby penguins can’t swim. In comparison to the down feathers of adult Penguins, those of

Penguin chicks are softer and less water-resistant.

As a result, chicks can’t swim successfully until they molt into their adult waterproof plumage at around three months of age.

How Deep Can Penguins Swim

Most species of penguins only dive to a depth of approximately 20 meters in search of food, but some have been observed diving as far as 30 meters!

However, the huge emperor penguin can hold its breath for as long as 20 minutes underwater—a world record.

When hunting for food, Emperor penguins have been observed diving as deep as 1,800 feet.

Gentoos, a different species, can go down to a depth of 500 feet.

Because penguins are so little compared to other water creatures like seals, their lungs can only hold so much oxygen.

The penguins’ lungs and air sacs are also compressed underwater, which is bad news for them.

Only a third of the oxygen required for each dive can be supplied by these critical airways.


Penguins can swim, as they are not built to fly. However, their wing adaptability allows them to swim very fast in the water.

Compared to land, these birds are excellent in their natural habitat in the water.

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About the author

Chukay Alex

Chukay is a season writer and farmer who enjoys farming and growing plants in his backyard farm. When he is not farming you can find him at the nearest lawn tennis court, hitting a mean backhand down the line.


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