Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails? (7 REASONS)

Why do ducks wag their tails?

If you’re a bird watcher you’ve probably seen ducks wiggling their tails. Why DO ducks why their tails? Ducks will wag their tails to shake off water, during mating season (a trait often seen in male ducks), and believe it or not when they’re excited!  We’re going to go over why ducks wag their tail, what it can mean, and anything else you’d want to know.

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Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails?

Why do ducks wag their tails?
Tail wagging is actually common when it comes to ducks. There are a lot of different reasons why they might be wagging their tail, but luckily most of the reasons are good.
The meaning of a duck waddling around with its tail wagging might change depending on the circumstances.
  • The majority of duck keepers have noticed that their ducks’ tails wag when they are delighted or in a good mood.
  • During the mating season, they will also wag their tails to either locate or attract a potential mate.
  • It’s possible that it’s simply the product of normal waddling and does not indicate anything at all.
Because ducks move in a particular manner and their bodies swing from side to side as they walk, one interpretation of this behavior is that ducks are attempting to maintain their equilibrium as they travel. Read More: How to Keep a Duck Pond Clean Naturally. Keeping your duck pond clean is the #1 way to avoid disease. We show you how to do it the natural way!

Being Excited

When they are very happy, ducks will often wag their tails, flap their wings, and move excitedly. In general, ducks will wiggle their tails when they are in a good mood or when they are joyful. They’ll often wag their tails when seeing other ducks, their owner, food, or just after having fun swimming in a pond. Here’s a great video showing a very happy duck as they are greeted by its owner:

Read More: How Long Can Ducks Stay Underwater? If you’ve ever seen a diving duck, you may wonder how long it can stay under the surface. Learn more!

It’s Mating Season

When they detect the presence of a female duck, male ducks will vigorously shake their tails and wings in an attempt to get the attention of the female duck. This is how ducks court one another and how the male tries to woo the female to mate with him. It’s common for additional particular mating behaviors, like fluttering the wings, preening, and head pumping, to occur alongside tail wagging. The fact that farmed ducks breed at any time of the year indicates that their tail-wagging behavior is not seasonal, so you’re likely to see tail-wagging as a result of mating year-round. Read our related article, Do ducks keep the same mate for life? to learn more about duck mating behavior!

Shaking Off Water

Ducks spend a significant amount of time in the water due to their semi-aquatic lifestyle. After a swim, it’s pretty normal to see them flap their wings and wag their tails to shake the water off. Along with the special waxy coating on their feathers, shaking off any excess water helps their feathers to air dry quickly. Read More: What Does it Mean When a Duck Shakes? Shivering could be an indicator of disease. Be on the lookout for these signs!

Just Waddling

Waddling is the characteristic gait of ducks, which consists of short, awkward steps and a swaying motion. The movement of their tail helps them maintain a healthy weight balance. When ducks waddle, their bodies change from side to side and they use their tails to counterbalance the weight of their bodies which can look like they are wagging their tails. Read More: Do Ducks Have 2 Legs? Can their wings also be called legs? Here’s ALL you need to know about a duck’s legs.

Soothing After Stress

ducks swimming in water
Ducks can wag their tails after a stressful event, such as after chasing a predator away from the nest. This is thought to be a self-soothing method.
One of the less common reasons why animals wag their tails is to calm down and relax after being stressed. They do this to relax after being confronted with a stressful scenario, such as a predator or confrontation with another duck. Read More: What is a Male Duck Called? Male ducks actually have a specific name! We cover all you need to know about male ducks in this guide.

Having Illnesses

A common symptom of disease in ducks is wing and tail trembling. If a duck is constantly wagging or shaking its tail, it could be a sign of “wet feather”. Wet feather is a condition caused by a duck being exposed to water for too long. This condition can reduce the water-repelling properties of a duck’s feathers and lead to irritation of the skin. Read More: How Long Can Ducks Go Without Water? Water is an essential part of a duck’s life, but can they go without it? And for how long? We answer these questions and MORE!

Do All Ducks Wag Their Tails?

The Perkins and Muscovy ducks that are kept as pets are especially prone to wagging their tails, which is a behavior that is widespread in domestic duck breeds. Wild ducks have also been shown to wag their tails, particularly as part of a mating and courtship ritual, or after having an encounter with a predator or another stressful event. It is quite improbable that a wild duck will wag its tail in response to a kind greeting or a ‘happy’ interaction when it is near a human because wild ducks do not feel as at ease around people. Read More: Why Do Ducks Quack So Much? Ducks are chatterboxes, but why do they quack so much? Do all ducks quack? We dive into these questions!

The Takeaway

It’s usually a good sign when a duck is wagging its tail and usually indicates that the duck is happy, in mating season, or just shaking water off from a nice swim. If you own ducks, be sure to keep an eye out for incessant wagging or nipping at the tail, as this could be an indication of “wet feather”, a disease commonly seen in ducks.

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