Over my many years of observing and photographing the mighty bald eagles of Alaska, I’ve seen some pretty incredible things, such as eagles building nests and having their young, eagles engaging in wild courtship rituals such as the “death spiral,” I’ve seen eagles get in savage, sometimes fatal battles over prized food sources, and I’ve even seen them attempting to sneak up on drowsy Kodiak bears in order to steal a bite of their meal. These are all things I’ve made past videos about. One particular eagle behavior that I get asked about quite a bit is if eagles can swim. Well, as a matter of fact, they can! Eagles are actually quite proficient at swimming. However, it’s not something that you generally see too often. In fact, out of the hundreds of eagles that I’ve watched and photographed over the years, I’ve only seen a few swimming.
On the occasions that eagles do swim, it’s usually for one of two reasons. First, sometimes an eagle’s eyes are bigger than its stomach. It’s not uncommon for an eagle to grab ahold of a fish that’s too heavy for it to lift out of the water. While in most cases the eagle will simply let go, regroup, and try again later on a smaller fish, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes an eagle will relentlessly hold on to that big fish and slowly swim to shore, sort of rowing or towing the fish along.
Secondly, in a similar manner, after a failed attempt at grabbing a fish, sometimes an eagle won’t be able to get enough lift or momentum to get out of the water to start flying, which can be a dangerous situation, as eagles can and do sometimes drown or succumb to hyperthermia if they’re too far out from shore. But in a situation where the shore is fairly close by, the eagle will simply start paddling away until they make it back to the safety of dry land.
So there you have it, that’s a little overview of the swimming capabilities of the bald eagle. Check out the video below to see more…