So, I've noticed a pattern in water fowl (here meaning birds who can take off and land on water, who float in the intervening time) tend to be larger birds.

The smallest I know of are gulls.

Are there any smaller water fowl? Anything the size of a partridge? Or a wren?

If it is only large birds, why is this?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ baby swans/ducks/geese? $\endgroup$
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ Many ducks are about the size of a partridge. And indeed, about the (body) size of gulls, though gulls seem to have a longer wingspan. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 5:18

2 Answers 2


There are many seabirds smaller than partridges. The smallest seabird (according to the National Trust of Scotland) is the European Storm Petrel, which weighs in at an average of 28g. That's not quite as small as the European Wren (6 - 10 g), but it definitely counts as 'small', nonetheless.

Being seabirds which spend their life at sea except during breeding, storm petrels float well.

Below is a European Storm Petrel weighing in at less than 35 grams in Fig. 1.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Great answer and hope you appreciate the edit. Feel free to remove as it clashes somewhat with your average weight of the bird. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 12:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm OK with the picture staying in, but I would make a couple of clarifications. Judging from the fluffy down on the underside, that's an unfledged young bird taken from the burrow. As such, that particular individual may not yet be waterproof. Also, it is common for tube-nosed seabird parents to feed their young until they weigh more than the adults just before fledging (Miskelly et al (2009) Biological Conservation 142(10):1965-1980). This way, they have some fat reserves while they learn to forage. $\endgroup$
    – bshane
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 12:18

The Cotton Pigmy Goose for example is about 26 cm long and weight about 160grams (smaller than a grey partridge) can take off and land on water. Have a look at this video for example.

As @WYSIWYG said, any young of "water fowl" species are small and are still "water fowls".

I would also bet that if you put a dead hummingbird on standing water, it would float! It obviously wouldn't be able to take off though.

  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps the hummingbird would float, but could it then take flight? ;) $\endgroup$
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 8:51

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