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How Fast Can Ducks Swim?

Ducks swim on average 2-3 mph, but some ducks have been observed reaching up to 6 mph. Ducklings typically swim about 0.6 mph.

Ducks are great swimmers. They’ve evolved throughout time to develop advantageous characteristics that help them swim.

These include features such as webbed feet and hollow bones.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at ducks swimming abilities, how they swim, and what this all means.

How Fast Can a Duck Swim?

Ducks can swim up to 6 mph, while ducklings have been observed swimming ​​0.6 mph on average.

Ducks are excellent swimmers. They use their webbed feet to propel them through the water. Ducks are very comfortable in the water, and they love to swim around in it.

duck swimming closeup

How Fast Can a Duckling Swim?

Ducklings swim on average about 0.6 miles per hour, but they can swim up to 1.5 mph. While ducklings usually can’t start swimming until they’re one to two weeks old, they quickly learn it.

They are also excellent swimmers from a young age, which helps them to avoid predators in the water.

Can Ducks Swim Underwater?

Some ducks can swim underwater. These can dive deep, and do so to find food. These are called diver ducks.

Ducks can be split into two groups: divers and dabblers. Diver ducks dive under the surface of the water to find food, while dabblers feed by tipping upside down, sticking only their heads into the water.

Diver ducks can stay underwater for much longer than dabbling ducks. Diver ducks can hold their breath for 60 seconds while dabbling ducks can hold their breath for 10-20 seconds.

Related: How long can ducks stay underwater?

wild duck diving and hunting

Types of Ducks and Their Swimming Speed

There are many types of ducks, all having different colors, appearances, and unique characteristics. Some have white feathers while others have brown feathers.

Some are also better at swimming than others.

How Fast Can a Mallard Duck Swim?

Mallard ducks are one of the most common types of ducks in North America. They are also some of the fastest swimmers, clocking in around 4-6 mph.

Mallards can also fly very well, up to 55mph. This makes them one of the fastest waterfowls in the world.

Mallards use their speed to escape predators and to get food. When one mallard sees a predator or potential food, it will let the other ducks know by quacking. The other ducks will then use their speed to escape or get to the food.

mallard ducks

How Fast Can a Pintail Duck Swim?

A pintail duck is a large perching duck with a long tail. They are known for their speed in the water, but they can fly fast as well.

When flying, the average pintail duck flies at about 48 miles per hour [1]. The fastest recorded speed of a pintail duck flying is about 67 miles per hour. 

In the water, pintail ducks can swim up to 4 miles per hour.

pintail duck

How Fast Can a Gadwall Duck Swim?

A gadwall duck can swim at a top speed of 3-5 mph. Their slender body helps them cut through the water more efficiently than other ducks. Gadwalls also have strong leg muscles, which give them extra power in the water.

How Fast Can Ducks Run?

Ducks are able to run up to speeds of around 6-8 miles per hour. They use their speed to escape predators and forage for food.

Ducks are faster than most people think, both in the water, in the air, and on the ground. Some ducks can run up to 8 mph. One of the fastest recorded was a Wood Duck of 8.2 miles per hour.

Because of their webbed feet, ducks do waddle instead of walk, which is why they might not be as fast as many other animals of similar size.

duck running

How Do Ducks Swim?

Ducks swim by using their feet as paddles. Their webbed feet provide a propulsive force that moves them forward.

Through evolution, ducks have evolved a number of advantageous characteristics that help them move better through the water. This includes feather coatings, interlocked feathers, webbed feet, and hollow bones.

Feather Coatings

Ducks’ feathers are covered in an oily substance that makes them waterproof [2]. They use their feather to create a layer of air between their body and their wings, which helps them stay afloat. 

This layer of air creates resistance against the water, allowing the ducks to move through the water more easily.

By suspending water during diving, ducks can easily shake it off when they arise again. This makes it so they stay dry. [3]

Feather Coatings

Interlocked Feathers

When ducks swim, they use their interlocking feathers to create a smooth surface on the water. The feathers are arranged in such a way that they overlap and form a seal that helps keep the water out. 

It allows the ducks to move more easily through the water and also reduces turbulence, making them less visible to predators.

Their wings are also specially adapted for swimming, with a web of feathers that extends out from the body and helps create less drag. [4]

Interlocked Feathers

Webbed Feet

Ducks have palmate feet, meaning, they have webbed feet. Their three front-facing toes are connected with a webbing, which allows ducks to move more water with their feet, resulting in faster swim speeds.

Webbed feet are limbs that become adapted for life in water. This feature helps them to propel themselves through the water as they swim. 

Related: What are ducks’ feet called? (Webbed feet)

duck feet close up

Hollow Bones & Buoyant Bodies

One of the reasons ducks are such good swimmers is because they have hollow bones and a buoyant body. Their hollow bones allow them to be very light, even though their bodies can be large.

wild duck

How Do Ducks Float?

Ducks can float because of their feathers and their natural buoyancy. Ducks have a layer of feathers that is covered by a waterproof coat. [4]

This coat helps keep the duck dry and also provides insulation. The feathers trap air, which makes the duck more buoyant and helps it stay afloat.

Ducks are able to use their wings and feet to steer themselves and stay on course.

Conclusion

Ducks can swim up to 6 miles per hour, and they can run up to 8 miles per hour. When ducks swim, they use their webbed feet to propel them through the water. Their buoyant bodies and hollow bones help keep them afloat, while their feathers help keep them dry.

When ducklings are about one to two weeks old, they start learning how to swim. As they’re very young and small, they can only swim about 0.6-1 mph.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.