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Can Pigeons Swim And Do They Like Water?

As the pigeon population starts to expand in our cities and towns, we have noticed more and more people asking various questions about pigeons and their abilities.

After the viral video of a pigeon trying to swim in the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy, we have noticed a number of people reaching out and asking if pigeons can swim as well as if they actually like to be in the water.

With pigeons obviously being a land-based bird as well as such a high number of people asking about swimming pigeons with so many clips going viral of pigeons trying to swim, we have decided to publish this dedicated article on the subject.

Our hope is to cover everything about a pigeons ability to swim and to explain why there are so many videos of pigeons in water looking like they are trying to swim.

As we see a few different questions relating to the swimming ability of pigeons as well as if they actually like the water or not, we have decided to add our table of contents below.

This will allow you to quickly and easily get to the various sections of the article that you want answers for without having to skim over the full article helping our readers save time.

Can Pigeons Swim?

A pigeon can “swim” in the sense that they are able to float for a very short period of time and move their legs to propel themselves forward but this is dangerous as they will usually start to sink quickly.

Their swimming speed is no where near that of an actual aquatic bird with webbed feed and the required oils on its feathers to allow it to float either.

This is why the majority of the viral videos on social media showing pigeons swimming are usually doing in it shallow water as they are able to skim around on the water as if they are swimming but then sink in the shallow water.

Thankfully, due to the water being so shallow, they are able to reach the follow while keeping the majority of their body and head out of the water so there is no long term risk.

As the pigeon repeats this behavior in the fountains near where humans feed them, they become more confident and try to swim more often.

This is why there are no videos showing pigeons trying to swim in rivers, lakes, or oceans and it almost always occurs in tourist hot spots where there is plenty of food and the pigeon basically works out how to swim in a water source they usually use for drinking.

Can Pigeons Survive In Water?

Pigeons can survive in shallow water for a short period of time as the air pockets in their features quickly fill with water and increase their weight causing them to sink quickly.

They do not have the necessary evolutional traits of ducks and other aquatic birds to survive in water for an extended period of time.

Even waterfowl birds can have issues surviving in water for extended periods of time if they have health issues effective their feathers or their oil glands that help them stay afloat.

As pigeons have none of these evolutionary traits with some of their traits actually making it considerably harder to survive in water, it is very rare to see pigeons in deep water.

On top of this, any water that has waves or currents will compound these effects for a pigeon trying to swim and can easily cause it to sink due to washing the air pickets out of its feathers that it needs to stay afloat.

Although a small number of pigeons can have webbed feet, they are usually out of practicing when it comes to swimming so their webbed feet offer minimal benefits to swimming.

Do Pigeons Have Webbed Feet So They Can Swim?

Although it is relatively rare, some pigeons can suffer from the web feet mutation or a variant of polydactyly causing the pigeon to be born with webbed feet.

It is not believed that this is an evolutionary trait to help pigeons swim but it’s a genetic abnormality in pigeons and in some cases, it can have an effect on their ability to walk.

The earliest documented cases of pigeons with webbed feet is from 1868 with Charles Darwin noting that he would fine multiple pigeons with webbed feet even though the bulk of the same type of pigeon would have regular feet.

There have been a number of theories as to why a small number of otherwise healthy pigeons will have webbed feet over the years with the leading theory being that it is just a genetic mistake.

As we touched on above, some pigeons that have webbed feet can actually have problems walking normally increasing the chances of predators being able to catch them on the ground.

There is also no evidence of a preen gland developing in pigeons either that is used by waterfowl such as ducks to cover their bodies in waterproof oils to help them survive on water.

This helps the case that webbed feet in pigeons is just a genetic abnormality and not an evolutionary step towards being able to swim and survive on water.

Do Pigeons Like To Get Wet?

Most pigeons seem to be indifferent about getting wet unless they are trying to clean themselves of parasites then they do seem to enjoy being wet.

The vast majority of pigeons will sit or stand in rain without trying to find shelter as if they couldn’t care less that they are getting wet.

There is also some evidence to support that getting wet can work to the pigeon’s advantage as it can force parasites off the pigeon’s body and improve general health while reducing the potential risks of some other health issues developing due to parasites infestations.

On the flipside of that, cold water will be able to rapidly decrease the pigeon’s body temperature but in most cases, this should not be much of an issue for the pigeon.

It would seem that pigeons also like to get wet on hot days as it is a quick and easy way for them to cool themselves down with ease.

The majority of the tourist attractions that are well known for pigeons usually have a water feature at the attraction or one close by allowing pigeons to fly off and cool down on hot days.


That brings our article going over if pigeons can swim as well as if pigeons like water to an end. We hope that we have been able to answer any questions that you may have had about pigeons swimming as we have seen a number of people reaching out about it. Although there are a number of videos on social media of pigeons swimming, the majority of the videos are in very shallow water with the pigeon only swimming for a very short period of time and their swimming technique not being very good.