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Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails?

Ducks have proven to be a very popular option for people who have their own vegetable patch as they are great for pest control but ducks won’t dig the roots of your plants up like chickens while still eating just as many bugs and insects.

On top of more and more people keeping ducks for practical purposes, people have also started to keep ducks as pets with many people feeding the local ducks in their parks.

This has resulted in more people reaching out and asking various questions about taking care of ducks and their behaviour. One of the more common questions that we see people asking about ducks is also their strangest behaviour, tail wagging.

After seeing so many people reaching out and asking why ducks wag their tails recently, we decided that we wanted to publish our own dedicated article on the topic.

Now, there are a number of reasons that ducks actually wag their tails so we will be taking a look into each of them to try and help our readers better understand the different situations where a duck may be wagging its tail around you.

As we will be covering a number of different reasons ducks wag their tails in this article, we have added our table of contents below to make it easier for our readers to skip to specific sections of the article.

Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails?

Ducks usually wag their tails to show affection, to communicate, and for practical reasons like shaking water off their tails or re-seating the feathers on their tail.

There are a number of less common reasons that ducks also wag their tails but these do tend to be much rarer than the main three.

Ducks are amongst the most social of birds with ducklings quickly imprintion on their mother when they hatch.

Many ducks can form a similar bond with a human who cares for them constantly with some ducks essentially seeing you as one of their own and communicating with you in the same way that they will communicate with other ducks including tail wagging.

In addition to that, it is very common for ducks to wag their tails as a way to realign their tail feathers if they end up out of place or to shake water off their tails along with a number of other practical reasons too.

Sometimes, ducks can end up with algae on their tail too so shaking their tail can also help to shake the algae off too.

Do Ducks Wag Their Tails To Show Affection?

Ducks do commonly wag their tails to show affection either to other ducks or to humans who they have formed a bond with.

Tail wagging in ducks usually represents the emotion of excitement rather than happiness as most people think though but the two emotions are commonly expressed at the same time.

Dogs are the most commonly known animals that will wag their tails when excited but rats, sheep, cows, horses, elephants, and various birds including ducks and chickens have also been known to wag their tail when excited.

It is a very common behaviour but the majority of people are not familiar with seeing a happy or excited duck so they rarely get to see it wag its tail in this way.

If a duck is wagging its tail to show affection or excitement then it will usually be making a large amount of noise too.

The tail wagging in a duck usually represents excitement where as the audible quacking tends to be the main sign for happiness.

Is There A Practical Reason That Ducks Wag Their Tails?

Ducks will wag their tails for a number of practical reasons such as shaking water, algae, or parasites off their tail when they get out of the water.

If the duck has been flying and just landed then it can shake its tail to re-align its tail feathers to keep them as comfortable as possible.

If a duck is wagging its tail for one of these reasons it will usually be silent and wag its tail while going about what it was already doing.

It is rare that this type of tail wag from a duck will last for more than a couple of seconds as the wag is not used to represent emotion so there is no need to drag it out.

If the duck is wagging its tail due to parasites being amongst its feathers then it may repeat the behavior a couple of times while making sound if the parasites are biting the duck.

For the most part, if a tail wag does not move the parasites then it will usually just turn its heat to its tail and eat them.

Do Ducks Wag Their Tails To Communicate With Each Other?

Tail wagging is a common way for ducks to communicate with each other. Although the exact reason that ducks wag their tails is not known, it is commonly believed that it is a way to indicate safety after something recently spooked the duck.

Sometimes they ducks may flap their wings and then wag their tails to indicate the same behavior too.

If you feed wild ducks at your local park or lake then this behavior can be very common as there are a number of commonly perceived threats for the ducks.

It is rare that the ducks will quack or make any sound when wagging their tails in this way unless they perceive the threat to be getting worse and then they may start to quack loudly to sound the alarm.

In some situations, wild ducks may perceive your pet dog as a threat even if you have a calm and relaxed dog. Just keep this in mind if you do go out to feed wild ducks in your local part or by your local lake as you may be accidently scaring the ducks that you are trying to feed.


That brings our article going over why ducks wag their tails to an end. We hope that we have been able to help our readers better understand the three main situations where ducks will wag their tails as well s what the duck means when they do this. Once you known the secondary signs to look for when a duck wags its tail in front of you, it tends to become easier to understand the specific reason that the duck is wagging its tail.