Can Pigeons Swim?
Will A Pigeon Die If It Falls On Water?

Are you wondering if pigeons can swim? Or what happens if a pigeon lands on water? Read on to find out interesting facts.

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David A. Swanson

June 27, 2021

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What’s This Post About?

Commonly known as ‘rock pigeons’ and ‘rock doves’, pigeons are sweet-tempered, plump, and short-beaked birds, with a fleshy area above the bill and below the forehead. Pigeons are fond of water even though they cannot survive for extended periods in it.

Pigeons are brilliant birds with superior characteristics, which makes them stand out from other bird species. Though they can’t swim, they can though float on water to clean themselves up. Pigeons ensure they avoid staying in water for extensive periods.

Pigeons cannot swim because, unlike other birds, they do not have webbed feet that allow the birds to swim. These birds do not die if they fall in the water. They can float on the water surface only for a short period because they can drown otherwise, if the feathers submerge in the water and get heavy.

pigeon near water

How Do Pigeons Look?

Pigeons have a dark blue and greyish head, throat, and chest with shades of red and purple in the feathers. They mostly have an orangish-red iris, a black beak, red feet, and are about 32-37 cms in length, with a wingspan of 20-26 inches long wings.

pigeon in water

This short-legged bird has a round tail and weighs about 9-13 ounces. They originate from western Asia, northern Africa, and southern Europe.

Over the years, we have witnessed them spread in other parts of Europe and Asia, Australia, southern Africa, some parts of Canada, and the United States.

These blueish-brown birds prefer living near sea cliffs but are also primarily found in urban areas.

pigeon on rock

Pigeons and humans have a love-hate relationship. Humans consider these birds unhygienic when the probability of pigeons spreading disease is very low among humans.

In some cases, though however, people can catch bacterial or fungal infections from pigeons’ excrement.

Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon (mostly found near coastal areas) are famous for preying upon the wild pigeons.

Did You Know?

Pigeons can fly up to 6000 ft.

Can Pigeons Swim?

Pigeons cannot swim in water mainly because they have a small and chunky body with a short neck, and they do not have webbed feet, which makes it impossible for them to swim.

Since the fact has been established that pigeons cannot swim, you would be amazed to know that they are not afraid of water. The reason for this is that, with their body dynamics, they can float on the surface of the water.

a pigeon near sea

These enthusiastic little birds do not swim, but they’re frequently seen near water sources other than the sea, such as swimming pools, rivers, or lakes, to drink water.

Pigeons can float on the water’s surface, but if they stay there for an extended period, they might end up drowning due to their feathers getting heavy.

Did You Know?

Pigeons are one of the most sociable birds

Are Pigeons Fond Of Water?

While some pigeons may seem dirty and generally are considered a messy species, other pigeons like to stay neat and clean. These plumped birds love to play in the water and take baths as it’s essential for them to keep their feathers clean.

Once the pigeons land in water, they swash the water using their feathers and play around. However, in the process of doing so, if the pigeon gets exhausted with its feathers getting heavy due to soaked water, it might cause the bird to drown.


If you see a pigeon near a pool or in water for long, try rescuing it because if you don’t, it will drown.

Further, pigeons can be classified as non-aquatic birds. So the next time you see a pigeon in water or near a water source such as a pool or a lake, it is either because the pigeon wants to drink water or because it wants to float and bathe.

pigeons are seen in a park around humans

Why Can’t Pigeons Swim?

The body dynamics and structure of pigeons is such that it doesn’t allow the birds to swim. They do not have layers of fatty acids or insoluble compounds in their body, which can protect them from drowning.

pigeon is sitting near a canal

Pigeons, unlike other birds, do not have webbed feet, which assists birds in balancing themselves in water. In addition to not having webbed feet, they also are anxious about their predators preying on them.

However, besides pigeons, other birds can swim, including loons and ducks, because they have layers of fatty acids or other organic compounds that are insoluble in water on their feathers.

This is why, when they swim, their feathers remain dry, which makes it possible for them to swim without having their feathers turn heavy, causing them to drown.

Fun Fact

Pigeons mate with a single partner forever until one of them dies.

Can Pigeons Float On Water?

pigeons near the sea

Pigeons’ physique plays a massive role in allowing them to float. When they are on the waterbed, they expand their tail and open their wings; this increases their structure’s surface area, allowing them to float in the water.

These stout birds also make use of their intellect by dampening the upper part of their feathers only, so they can enjoy the floating process without drowning in the water.

Therefore, we can safely say that these birds can and do float on water. However, they only float for a short period to avoid drowning.

Fun Fact

Pigeons drink water by sucking on it using their bills as straws.

Do Pigeons Die In Water?

pigeons splashing water

Pigeons cannot swim in the oceans or canals like other birds, but they do not also instantly die if they land on water. We have often seen them around and in water, because they love bathing themselves. Since pigeons cannot swim, they manage to float on water or be around it.

Since pigeons do not die in water, you would often see a pigeon floating in a lake or a river with a small water depth. Due to their survival abilities, they like to take dips time and again to keep themselves hydrated.

By doing so, it serves a dual purpose. They can quench their thirst on hot summer days and are also able to clean their feathers and bathe their bodies while being in the water.

Did You Know?

Pigeons have a rare characteristic such as the ability to recognize its reflection in the mirror. They are the only non-mammal that possess this capability

Keep Reading!

In conclusion, we can confirm that pigeons cannot swim in the water, but they do not die either if they happen to fall on the water.

This is because they float on the water surface; however, this can only be done for a limited period. If this period gets extended and their feathers soak water, their probability of drowning will increase, eventually resulting in their death.

Pigeons do not have webbed feet, and this is the primary reason for them being unable to swim in the water, unlike other couple of birds that can do so. However, pigeons float by broadening their tails and opening their wings

Are you interested in reading further about pigeons? Here’s an informative post on how far can pigeons fly!

How Far Can Pigeons Fly? It's Almost Unbelievable!

Amongst many things that these brainy birds are capable of, flying far further is one of them. You would be amazed to learn about their flying abilities.

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By David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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David A. Swanson Picture

David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!



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