Can Crows Swim?

Though crows are intelligent and dexterous enough to adapt to nearly all kinds of habitats, a crow lacks swimming adaptations including webbed feet, muscular strength, specific body density as well as shape and breathing alternatives.

So the answer to the question – Can crows swim is.. 

Crows can neither swim nor ever learn to swim.

That said, crows have often been observed playing and floating in birdbaths.

Can Crow Swim In Water? (Answered In Detail)

They most certainly cannot

You see, aquatic birds have special body structures and adaptations to swim as well as breathe underwater.

Meanwhile, a crow’s body is designed to steer through the wind and not water currents. 

Hence, crows cannot swim. 

Still, birds like puffins and ducks can fly and swim with comparable expertise. 

And so, the absence of swimming adaptations or the presence of flying specifications does not completely justify a crow’s inability to swim. 

Therefore, a more appropriate approach would be questioning: 

Why Crows Cannot Swim?

Now, the best way to understand would be to compare a crow’s physical features to the swimming adaptations of aquatic birds. 

So, I present to you a humble attempt at explaining why crows cannot swim:

Features Swimming Birds Crows
Body Density Since water is about 900 times denser compared to air. Therefore, for a bird to go below the water surface it must have a dense body. 

For instance, the smallest penguin- Blue Penguins weigh about 1.5 kgs but have a tightly packed body, growing as tall as 30 cm. They often eat pebbles to increase body weight while diving.

Since air is less dense compared to water. Therefore, steering through air requires a broad but less dense body. 

So, a crow weighing about half a kg can grow about 45cm in height.

Body Shape Aquatic birds have torpedo-shaped streamlined bodies to reduce friction.

For instance, puffins have short legs and necks. Also, their wings have relatively small feathers to avoid water resistance.

Crows have chunky bodies with large feathers, long necks as well legs. And so, their body will likely experience enormous water drag.
Bones and Skeleton Swimming birds like penguins usually have thick bones and fused joints to avoid snapping underwater pressure. Since flighted birds needed to reduce their body weight. Therefore, crows evolved to have hollow bones and fickle joints. 

While these adaptations help crows fly. However, a crow would snap its joints underwater. 

Webbed Feet Aquatic birds have webbed feet to allow them to steer through the water. 

Even coastal birds such as seagulls have webbed feet.

Crow feet resemble chicken feet with long toes.

Such feet are perfect for perching or hopping on land, but not for swimming.

Beaks Swimming birds normally feed on marine life. And so, their beaks are long and hooked to allow them to capture food. Though crows have poking bills. However, these are not long or hooked enough to catch fish in deep waters.
Eyes Swimming birds have a transparent nictating membrane that allows them to clearly focus underwater. Though crows have nictating membranes. However, these are too blinding to allow much light within the eyes while swimming. 
Respiratory Adaptations Swimming birds can hold their breath underwater and lower their breathing rate. For instance, a penguin can hold its breath for up to 20 minutes and can lower body metabolic activities to about 1/3rd of normal body activities. Crows can neither hold their breath for long nor voluntarily control their breathing rate. So, they cannot breathe underwater. 
Waterproofing Swimming birds frequently preen to add oil on their feathers making themselves waterproof. They also have special feather adaptations to resist water. Therefore, a duck can shake its body after a swim and take flight.  Though crows have some waterproof feathers. However, even these can get wet and become heavier to even move.
Body Temperature Swimming birds have either ability to reduce their body temperature or have an extra set of down feathers to keep them warm. Crows don’t have many down feathers and they cannot control their body temperature at will. 

And so, a crow cannot maintain body heat underwater. 

Muscular Strength Swimming birds have highly developed pectoral muscles. For instance, penguins have muscles to control both downwards as well as upward strokes. Crows have only enough muscular strength to steer through the wind. And so, crows can move feathers in a downward stroke, they cannot control their upward strokes. 

While all this explains why crows cannot swim, crows are often seen floating in water baths as if they cannot even drown. 

So you may be wondering

Can Crows Float In Water? 

They can but for a limited period of time.

You see, floating birds like ducks and swans have certain adaptations.

However, crows have little to no such adaptations. 

A comparison can be made by looking through the following table:

Floating Adaptation Significance in Floating Birds Presence in Crows?
Body Density 



Moderate body density and weight keeps swimming birds afloat. Crows have light-weight and moderate body densities. Therefore, they can stay afloat a bit.
Air Pockets These increase natural buoyancy to stay above water. No
Waterproof Feathers They have oily feathers with micro-hooks permitting them locked feathers that don’t even allow water to pass through. Crows have some waterproof feathers but these eventually become wet and heavy.
Double Feathers The down feathers keep them warm. Meanwhile, contour feathers give the bird shape and flight. Crows don’t have many down feathers.
Thermal Regulation These have the ability to lower their body temperature and metabolic rate to reduce energy loss. Crows cannot control their body temperature at will.
Webbed Feet These help the floating birds to steer water. No
Uropygial Gland/

 Oil Gland

This organ helps in frequent preening with special fatty acids that are rather resistant to dissolve. Crows have a regular uropygial gland with small amounts of oil production.

Since crows have some floating adaptations, therefore, they can stay afloat.

However, they cannot do so for long. 

But, I have seen people talk about crows floating in water as if crows were born pirates and crows are only dwelling on the land because they cannot endure sharks having a drink with them. 

So, I wonder if that’s what you are thinking right now.

Therefore, I have decided to give a small fact check.

Statement Fact Check
Crows can float for hours. A crow will survive barely a few minutes in water. After this, a crow will get wet and will become unable to fly.
Crows take frequent baths. They do. However, they only do so in shallow waters.
Crows can drown in birdbaths. They normally don’t.
Crows cannot drown because they float. Crows can drown in deep waters. However, they can survive shallow waters by flapping their wings to wade forward and reach ashore.
Crows hunt like eagles in water. They cannot use their feet to capture food. However, certain crow species like Fish Crows (Corvus ossifragus) can wade through shallow water to capture molluscs using their beaks.
Crows cannot stand in water. They can stand in shallow waters like puddles and birdbaths.

Despite all this, crows are seen far more often around water than other birds.

Which may make you think..

Do Crows Like Water?

Well, they do.

You see, crows are mostly studied for their intelligence, problem solving attitude and their large social gatherings.

Other times, they are highlighted for their bullying and entitled behavior.

Therefore, crows having fun is the least explored aspect of their lives.


Crows take frequent baths, splash waters on their peers and mates as well as drink water far more than an average bird.

Here are a few of the interesting things to note:

  1. Juvenile crows drink more water than an adult water.
  2. Crows inhabit places with some water resource nearby. Perhaps, they understand that water will bring them food and small animals.
  3. Crows often dip their food in shallow birdbaths. This not only softens their food but may also clean the food of dirt and microbes.
  4. Sometimes, crow store the food they cannot eat in water. This stops rapid microbial degradation within that food. Maybe, crows understand that they can preserve food in water.
  5. Crows take baths in hot seasons while panting with their beaks open. This significantly lowers their body temperature. 

Now, you may be wondering if the story of “The Thirsty Crow” is indeed true. 

Well, ornithologists suggest the story may have only been fiction.

Although this story did provoke scientists to test a crow’s intelligence. 

A crow is capable of understanding the concept that if we throw pebbles in a pot with little water, the water will surely rise.

So, thirsty crow may indeed have existed.

Do Crows Fly In The Rain?

While they don’t, however, they can fly for few moments to seek shelter during rain.

You see, crows are intelligent enough to understand that thick clouds and moist winds represent rain.

And so, they mostly find shelter way before a storm even starts.

Otherwise, they make quick decisions to find the most suitable and sturdy shelter for a rain.

Crows have little waterproofing. 

A crow is likely to get its wings wet and may lose its ability to fly for at least a few hours.

Furthermore, heavy wings are difficult to flap and may tire a crow sooner than later.

“But Do Crows Love Rain?”

Not really as rains represent uncertainty and harshness of living in the wild.

If anything, rain is annoying for crows.

Besides, crows are not directing some romantic movie where they will find a mate by holding some umbrella over another crow, while it keeps raining. 

Also, I doubt if a mother crow brews a hot mug of chocolate for her kids to enjoy rain.

However, crows are not the only birds that cannot swim. 

So, if you are wondering:

Which Bird Cannot Swim?

Birds that cannot swim include nearly all flighted birds.

These include:

  1. Corvids including ravens, crows, rooks, jackdaws.
  2. Songbirds such as thrushes, wrens, larks, cardinals.
  3. Some raptors including eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls.
  4. Chickens 
  5. Parrots

Wrapping Up

While crows love water, however, they don’t like rainy seasons.

They cannot swim but can float in shallow waters to survive or find some prey.

Also, they take frequent water baths and may even dip their food in water to store for later use.

Crows are not the only birds that cannot swim as other mainly flighted birds cannot swim too 

Other articles about crows which you may find interesting!

Where do crows sleep?

Do crows attack dogs?

Why do crows attack eagles?

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