How Fast Can Ducks Swim UNDERWATER?

adult duck swimming with baby ducks

If you’ve ever seen ducks wading on the surface of a pond, you’ve probably wondered, “how fast can ducks swim?”

Above and under the water, the fastest ducks can swim at 4 to 6mph. The average speed is between less than 1mph and 3mph.

Read on to learn everything there is to know about swimming ducks!

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How Fast Can Ducks Swim?

Colorful duck sitting in the water
Ducks live their whole lives around water and will swim all throughout the year – even in the winter!

There are over a hundred different kinds of ducks across the globe, and each one has its own set of characteristics that might have an impact on how quickly it can swim.

Studies have shown that the top swimming speeds for many species of ducks range from 0.6 to 3 miles per hour.

Ducks are not known for their speed in the water, but some duck breeds can reach up to 5 or 6 miles per hour.

On the other hand, they can reach speeds in the air of approximately 49 miles per hour on average when they are flying.

Ducks don’t need to swim particularly quickly since their predators don’t typically live in the water.

Flying is their best help to avoid danger. 

Read More: Do Ducks Mate for Life? We discuss mating season and behavior in this post!

Fastest Swimming Speed By Duck Breed

One duck swimming in the water
Swimming speed can depend on the type of duck. Diving Ducks, for example, are better swimmers than Dabbling Ducks.

There are many different kinds of ducks, and some are more skilled at swimming than others.

Let’s take a look at some duck breeds and how fast they can swim.

Mallard Duck

One of the most prevalent ducks in North America is the Mallard.

Their top speeds in the water range from 4 to 6 miles per hour, making them among the quickest swimmers in the world.

Additionally, mallards have an impressive top speed of 55 miles per hour in the air.  

Mallards rely on their swiftness both to avoid danger and to pursue their food sources.

One mallard will quack to alert the others to danger or food when it spots it.

The remaining ducks will then use their speed to either flee or get to the food.

Pintail Duck

Pintail ducks can reach speeds of about 4 miles per hour in the water.

They are much better at flying than they are at swimming considering that they can reach speeds of 55mph in the air.

Gadwall Duck

The gadwall duck has a top swimming speed of between 3 and 5 miles per hour.

Because of their narrow bodies, they can swim through the water with greater agility than other types of ducks.

Gadwalls have powerful legs, which provide them with an advantage when swimming through the water.

Duck Types & Varieties

Mama duck with her ducklings following
There are many types of ducks and some are better equipped for the water than others are. Although all ducks spend a good amount of time in the water, some aren’t the best swimmers.

It’s challenging to classify ducks because there are at least 133 different species of ducks around the globe.

Ducks have their breeds, but they also have different types of ducks that classify the way they behave and survive.

Let’s take a look at some duck varieties to know about.

Diving Ducks

Diving ducks, sometimes known as “divers,” are aptly named because of their unique ability to dive

They dive as deep as 40 feet in search of food, which may include fish, snails, and other invertebrates, but divers often stick to depths of 1.5 to 6 feet.

The ducks can stay underwater for up to 20 seconds on average but can go longer if necessary.

The powerful diving and swimming abilities of the diver duck are due in part to its large feet.

Divers also reduce their buoyancy by compressing their feathers and wings.

Canvasbacks, scaup, redheads, and ring-necked ducks are the most common species of diver ducks in North America.

Dabbling Ducks

Puddle ducks, or dabbling ducks, are small, compact birds that float in the water due to their compact body.

They tend to stick near shallow waters and only submerge their heads to search for food like bugs, plants, worms, seeds, and grains.

A dabbling duck’s rear end will protrude vertically out of the water as it feeds.

The feet of some dabblers, like the mallard, are located in the middle of the body, making it easy for them to walk on land.

Dabblers can take up vertically from the water due to their larger wings.

Ducks that frequently dip in water include the mallard, gadwall, pintail, shoveler, teal, and wigeon.

Read More: Do Ducks Eat Fish? Here are the fish that ducks will dive for to catch!

Perching Ducks

Some authorities recognize a third general classification of ducks known as perching ducks in addition to the dabbling and diving ducks.

The Muscovy, the Wood Duck, and the Mandarin Duck are some examples of these.

The large talons and tree-roosting preference of perching ducks make them easily distinguishable from other species of ducks.

They also almost always exhibit iridescent hues on their bodies, particularly in the upper wing area.

Domestic Ducks

Domestic ducks aren’t wild species; rather, they’re pets that escaped from farms, gardens, and zoos.

On urban and suburban ponds, these ducks frequently gather in mixed flocks.

Their hybridization with both domestic and wild ducks is evident in their muddled plumage, varying sizes, and mottled colors.

Here is a video showing more details on the types of ducks there are:

Read More: How to Clip Duck Wings. If you have ducks, it’s best to clip their wings so they can’t fly away.

How Do Ducks Swim?

Paddling with their feet is how ducks get around when they’re in the water.

The propulsion provided by their webbed feet allows them to swim with ease.

Their water-resistant feathers, webbed feet, and hollow bones are all traits of the duck that help them to swim more effectively.

Feather Coatings

The oily coating on a duck’s feathers renders it impermeable to water. Thanks to the air’s resistance to the water, the ducks can swim more swiftly and with less effort.

Interlocked Feathers

When swimming, ducks generate a flat surface on the water by rubbing their feathers together.

The feathers are organized to overlap and create a seal, which helps to keep the water out.

It lessens the amount of turbulence in the water, making the ducks harder to spot by would-be predators, and making it easier for them to swim.

Their webbed feathered wings are designed specifically for swimming, reducing drag.

Webbed Feet

Due to the webbing that connects the three front toes of a duck, they can propel themselves through the water with more force.

Buoyant Bodies & Hollow Bones

A combination of hollow bones and a buoyant body makes ducks excellent swimmers.

Although their bodies can be pretty big, depending on the species, they are surprisingly light due to their hollow skeletons.

Read More: How Long Do Ducks Live? Learn more about ducks in this article discussing their average lifespan.


Ducks are capable of reaching top speeds of up to 6 miles per hour when swimming.

Ducks propel themselves through the water with the help of their webbed feet as they’re swimming.

They can stay afloat thanks to their hollow bones and buoyant bodies, and their feathers ensure that they do not become wet.

We hope you learned something new about ducks today!

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