How Long Can Ducks Stay Underwater? – ANSWERED

How long can ducks stay underwater?
How long can ducks stay underwater? Ducks can dive and feed at great depths (65 feet or more for some species), but the average time spend underwater is about one minute. We’ll cover everything about duck diving in this guide!

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How Long Can a Duck Stay Underwater?

duck in water
Ducks are designed to be in and around water, and they enjoy being in water or by water most of the time to bathe, eat, and hang out.
A diver duck can submerge itself for up to a minute on average. There are two distinct types of ducks:
  • Divers
  • Dabblers
Dabblers are a subspecies of duck that prefers to forage in waters with a shallow depth and obtain their food by submerging their heads. They weigh a lot less than Divers and are more buoyant, which enables them to easily turn themselves upside down with their feet in the air so that they can eat. Divers are capable of feeding at depths up to 65 feet deep. Read More: How Long Can Ducks Go Without Water? Ducks are dependent on water, so how long can they go without it safely? We answer this question and more!

How Long Can Ducks Hold Their Breath?

The average duration of a dive can range anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, however, divers can hold their breath for up to 1 minute at a time. This provides sufficient time for the animal to descend, search for food, and consume it before coming back up for air. Here’s a great video showing how ducks go down to the bottom of a body of water to get food:

Read More: What is a Group of Ducks Called? Here’s what a group of ducks is really called!

How Long Different Ducks Can Stay Underwater

duck swimming next to rock
DID YOU KNOW? Ducks can swim at around 3 miles per hour. While this isn’t very fast, they still make excellent divers.
While there are many different types of diving ducks, how they dive and for how long can vary from species to species.


Buffleheads are the smallest Divers in North America, breeding around ponds and foraging in generally open shallow water, where they dive for crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates, which they eat while they’re still underwater. They can hold their breath for about 25 seconds underwater, but on average they only stay under for about 12.

Diver Ducks

The average time that a diver duck spends submerged is up to one minute, and they are accustomed to swimming in open, deep water. Read More: How to Keep a Duck Pond Clean Naturally. Both man-made and natural ponds can be cleaned without chemicals!

Mallard Ducks

Mallards do not go very deep underwater since they’re not divers like other ducks. They can maintain their buoyancy by tilting their upper bodies below the surface of the water to search for seeds and vegetation. The majority of their habitats consist of wetland areas like marshes, ponds, and lakes. In addition to foraging in shallow water, they can feed extensively on land. So, whenever they venture below the surface for a brief look, they do so for only a few seconds at a time. Read our related article, Do Ducks Like Fish? Ducks often eat fish and it’s a great addition to their diet! Here are their favorite fish.

Wood Ducks

The Wood Duck is a Dabbler, which means that it feeds by taking brief or shallow dives that don’t require them submerging completely under the water. They are most commonly found in marshes and other freshwater environments, and they favor open water since it often contains densely vegetated regions that they can use to hide and hunt. Because they are Dabblers, they are unable to maintain their submerged position for long. Their excursions beneath the water only lasted for a few seconds at a time. Read More: How to Catch a Duck Without Hurting It. If you need to capture a duck, this is the way to go about it!

Why Can Ducks Stay Submerged for So Long?

Duck dunking head in water
Ducks are great at holding their breath for enough time to grab food and come back up to the surface. They’re efficient swimmers, which makes this doable.

Watertight Wings

Diver ducks, in contrast to their Dabbler family, have features and abilities that extend their time spent submerged. Their wings are smaller and more compact, so they can be tucked closer to their bodies for more efficient diving, and their bodies are wider in the midsection. Like all ducks, they also have a preen gland near their tail that produces the oil for their feathers. They use their beak to spread oil from this gland all over their feathers, making them smooth and watertight. Read More: Do Ducks Wag Their Tails When They Are Happy? Ducks will wag their tails for a number of reasons, including being happy!

Webbed Feet

Larger, more powerful webbed feet let them propel themselves further underwater. As the birds prepare to dive, they draw their wings close to their body, releasing any excess air. They kick up into the air, disappear beneath the surface of the water, and then kick again. They cut through the water with their paddle feet and sleek wings, guiding themselves with their heads and tails. When they get to the bottom, they can graze for aquatic flora and insects. Read our related article, How Fast Can Ducks Swim Underwater? See the top speeds of different ducks!

Slowed Pulse and Breathing

Diving ducks conserve oxygen by slowing their pulse rates and breathing more shallowly while submerged. Divers float back to the surface after finishing their dive by loosening their muscles. Read More: Why Do Ducks Quack So Much? Discover more about the behaviors of ducks!

The Takeaway

Ducks can submerge themselves for up to 1 minute. All ducks dive to some extent, although some ducks dive more deeply than others. Ducks that simply dip their heads into the water are called dabbling ducks, whereas diving ducks immerse their full bodies in the water when they swim.

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