Do Ostriches Swim? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

There are a lot of bird species that are adept at swimming including ducks, swans and even penguins.

It is natural to want to know if other species such as ostriches can also swim. The answer is yes, ostriches can swim. 

Though ostriches can’t fly, they can swim. It is however rare to see ostriches swimming. It is also interesting to know that ostriches swim the same way they run.

Let us discuss how ostriches swim, whether they like water, whether an ostrich can dron and how fast they can swim.

This post will answer all your questions on ostrich swimming behavior.

Do Ostriches Swim?

While it is uncommon seeing ostriches swimming, they do occasionally enjoy the water.

It’s worth noting that ostriches swim similarly to how they run, with their legs moving in a similar pattern.

Ostriches swim by propelling themselves forward with their powerful legs in much the same pattern way they flee from predators.

It is believed that these birds enjoy the water and will swim to cool off in the summer sun.

Swimming is actually quite easy for ostriches if they are able to keep their heads above water.

Ostriches are interesting animals and despite years of living around humans, we are recently just learning about some of their behaviors.

Ostriches will not only swim in rivers or lakes, there are instances where they have been seen enjoying a dip in the ocean such as the Atlantic ocean

Those who are familiar with them also explain that ostriches do like to go for a swim on hot days and once they keep their heads above the water line, they will do just fine. 

Here is an article I wrote on how do ostriches survive in the cold

Do Ostriches Like Water?

Ostriches have been reported swimming in water from time to time. Although it is not a regular occasion, they do enjoy taking a dip from time to time.

In South Africa, where they are populous, tourists have sometimes seen the big birds enjoying in the Ocean. 

It is believed that they do this on hot days to regulate their body temperature.

Finding ostriches that can swim is just as surprising to humans as seeing them put their heads in the sand.

However, you will find that these behaviors are not only meaningful to the birds, it is pleasurable as well.

When it comes to their intake of water, ostriches do not necessarily have to take water all the time as they get water from the plants they eat.

However, if they are around water or they find a watering hole they will take advantage of that to drink. 

They also know how to raise their body temperature on hot days and this helps to keep their bodies regulated.

Of course, they can also decide to go for a quick swim in the ocean. 

Can An Ostrich Drown?

There have been no reports of ostriches drowning or of an ostrich found to have been drowned.

Ostrich swimming is not a common sight as the big birds do not engage in doing that everyday.

As it is, they occasionally go for swims and biologists have acclaimed this to them trying to reduce their body temperatures. 

Ostriches are big and heavy birds and it is understandable that one might be worried that they will drown if they try to swim.

It has been reported however that if they keep heads elevated and above water, they will do just fine in water.

If you are hoping to see an ostrich swim, it might take you a while to do that. Apart from the fact that they are mostly native to Africa, they do not engage in swimming regularly. 

Do Ostriches Float?

Yes ostriches can float in water while they are swimming. You might have been wondering how it is possible for ostriches to stay afloat while swimming.

An ostrich will keep afloat in the water and kick with its long legs to propel itself forward. This is basically akin to humans using their legs and feet to swim forward.

Ostriches will also stay afloat by ensuring their heads are above water. It is not known whether these large birds can breathe underwater.

The sightings of ostriches swimming have shown them all with their heads above water.

Though not immediately. They have been observed successfully swimming against strong currents.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, one was even seen swimming along a flooded area.

Ostriches are equipped with bodily features that benefit them when they are swimming.

Their long, bare necks are flat, and they also have long, powerful legs as well as strong feet. They also have two sharp claws on each foot. 

Those strong leg muscles which help them to deliver powerful kicks when attacking, are extremely useful when moving back and forth while swimming.

Another fascinating fact about ostriches is that they can only kick forward.

Because these strong birds have their primary musculature in their hips and thighs, it’s unsurprising that they can swim quite well.

Also check out this article I wrote on can you ride an ostrich?

How Fast Can An Ostrich Swim?

Ostriches are one of the fastest runners on earth in both the animal and human kingdom.

An average ostrich adult can run at the maximum speed of 70km per hour. With their strong leg muscles they are able to propel themselves forward and move at fast speeds. 

Though they can’t fly, ostriches can run as well as also swim.

People have asked if ostriches can swim as fast as they run and the answer is we do not really know how fast ostriches swim.

They do not swim as fast as they run since they are not natural swimmers. They do not spend a long time in water and it is not common to even see them swimming. 

We do know that with their powerful leg muscles, ostriches are able to propel themselves forward. So we can say ostriches are pretty good swimmers; just not the fastest. 


Ostriches swimming is probably something you have not heard of or not familiar with.

It is however, a phenomenon that happens although not often or regularly. Ostriches have been sighted in different places, swimming and even during a strong hurricane. 

We are familiar with ostriches running and flapping around but they can also swim as well. They are able to swim and stay afloat by keeping their heads above water.

They move with the current by swimming forward with their powerful leg muscles. 

Ostriches cannot swim as fast as they can run since they are not natural swimmers but we can say that they are not bad swimmers afterall.

Some people have put down their swimming behavior to them wanting to get cool during hot days. 

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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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