Why Do Geese HONK When They Fly?

Group of geese flying in the air

If you’ve ever had geese fly over your head, you may have noticed that they were pretty talkative. Why do geese honk when they fly? Researchers have discovered that geese honk when they fly to keep in formation and avoid collisions. Find out more about this fascinating phenomenon in today’s blog post.

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Why Do Geese Honk When They Fly?

goose flying over water
Geese are actually much smarter than we’d ever imagined, but they have to be in order to communicate and fly in the ways that they do.
There are several reasons why geese honk when they fly.

To Keep in Formation

Most people have probably heard the sound of geese honking as they fly overhead in formation. When flying in formation, geese take full advantage of the aerodynamic benefits of working together. By flying in a “V” formation, each goose can save energy by drafting off of the bird in front of it. Studies have shown that flying in formation can reduce a bird’s energy expenditure by 71%. So, why do they honk? It turns out that honking serves as a way to keep the group together. As any birdwatcher knows, staying in formation cannot be accessible while flying at high speeds. By honking, geese can stay interconnected and coordinated, ensuring everyone enjoys the benefits of flying in formation. Read More: Do Geese Lose Their Flock? See why geese lose their flocks and what it means!

To Avoid Collisions

By honking, geese can communicate their intentions to other flock members and help prevent mid-air collisions. Scientists believe that geese use a type of mental map to keep track of the location of their flockmates. This map is constantly updated as birds take off, land, and change direction. When a goose honks, it sends out a signal that other birds pick up. This allows them to update their mental maps and avoid collisions. So next time you see a flock of geese flying overhead, listen for the honking and appreciate how these birds can stay safe in the air.


goose flying in air
Geese migrate south in the winter to enjoy the warmer climate.
Every year, millions of geese embark on an incredible journey, flying thousands of miles to reach their breeding grounds. Scientists believe that honking may help geese stay together during migration. Geese can communicate their location and direction to other flock members by honking. This is especially important when flying over long distances, as it helps keep the flock together and prevents members from becoming lost or separated. In addition, honking may also serve as a warning signal, alerting other animals to the presence of predators or dangerous weather conditions. Whatever the reason, honking is an essential part of migration for geese and helps ensure they safely reach their destination. Read our related article, Where Do Geese Go in the Winter? to explore the migration patterns and habits of these birds!


Honking helps a group of geese stay together. A goose can determine where it is about the rest of the flock by listening to the sound of other geese honking. This is especially important when flying through unfamiliar territory. Geese rely on their sense of hearing more than their sense of sight, and scientists believe that honking may help them to find their way. Here is a great video giving you audio of what a goose sounds like while honking:

How Do Geese Determine Who Leads When Flying?

Geese are well-known for their formation flying, in which they fly in a V-shaped formation with one goose in the lead, but how do they determine who leads? According to one theory, the position of leader rotates among the geese based on energy needs. When a goose falls behind, it can tuck its head under its wing and save energy by drafting off the goose in front. On the other hand, the lead goose must do more work and expend more energy. As a result, lead positions tend to rotate among the flock, giving each goose a chance to rest. Another theory suggests that hierarchical dominance affects leadership roles, with more dominant geese taking the lead more often. Regardless of how they choose their leaders, it’s clear that geese are expert flyers and can cover great distances with little effort. Read More: Where Do Geese Sleep? Learn more about geese and their behavior in this guide!


How Long Do Geese Fly Without Stopping?

Some geese are so efficient that they can pass an astonishing 1,500 miles in just 24 hours. Of course, not all journeys are so straightforward. If the weather is unfavorable or there’s unexpected turbulence, geese will adjust their plans accordingly.


Geese honk mainly as a form of communication whether that’s to communicate location, about predators, food, or help them to stay in formation, it’s a huge part of their lives. Just remember when you hear them honking that they are just communicating with one another.

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