Apparently, Owls Can Swim Now: Rare Footage Captures Owl Swimming In Lake Michigan


Owls are often seen as mysterious creatures, largely because they don’t come out during the day. Yet seeing an owl in broad daylight is less rare than seeing an owl SWIM! In fact, many might assume owls can’t swim even if they had to, but think again. Apparently, owls have a hidden talent when it comes to swimming the breaststroke.

Talented photographer and bird-lover Steve Spitzer recently captured footage of a great horned owl swimming across Lake Michigan. Spitzer originally saw the beautiful owl jump into the water in order to escape being attacked by two Peregrine Falcons. Assuming the bird might drown, Spitzer rushed over to help.

He was surprised to see the owl didn’t need his help at all, as he was just fine swimming across Lake Michigan all on his own. Since owls are not a water bird the cute guy swam just like a human, with his head out of the water and his wings moving like arms to propel forward. The footage of the rare incident was shot from the beach at Loyola Park, located in Chicago’s Rogers Park region. See the video below!


So why is an owl swimming under the bright lights of the sun such a rare sight? For one, falcons are diurnal (awake during the day), and owls are nocturnal (awake during the night), meaning the uniqueness of the situation started off before the owl ever entered the water. Since these two species rarely have the chance to make contact, it’s interesting they had a chance to scuffle in the first place.

It’s even stranger perhaps that the owl was able to swim in order to escape the angry flock of territorial falcons that forced him out of the air. Spitzer is a well-seasoned bird photographer, and even he had concerns the owl wouldn’t make it out alive without help. In fact, a bird rescue team was called out. But this owl proved he didn’t need any help from humans.


Predatory bird expert Geoff LeBaron offers one possible explanation for this strange scenario. He says that during this time of year owls are forced out of their parents’ nest to fend for themselves. This causes stress on the newly independent owl to find food, which can push them to hunt during the day.

This particular owl found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, as territorial falcons heavily dominate this area. Lucky for this wise owl, he escaped just in time!


LeBaron says that it’s not unheard of for large non-water birds to swim, but usually the birds that end up in the water are fishing, or have caught a fish too big to fly with. Since great horned owls don’t eat fish it’s not nearly as likely they would end up in this position.


The great horned owl is one of the most popular species of large owl native to the Americas. This powerful owl is a fierce predator known to live in a wide variety of environments, including wetlands, forests, deserts, grasslands, backyards, cities, and pretty much anywhere with enough semi-open habitat. Perhaps their adaptable nature helped this owl adapt to moving across water instead of the air.


“Wow, that was hard work!” 


The actual video of the swimming owl is short. Spitzer admits, “If I had known he would be so popular, I would have shot a longer video.” It might only be a mere 9 seconds long but it’s awesome all the same!

Do you think owls are they greatest hoot of all time? If so, you’ll love these 28 Majestic Owls Caught On Camera

Photo Credits: Flickr