Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails? 7 Reasons

Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails

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Avid bird watchers have observed ducks wagging their tails on several occasions. It is common to wonder why do ducks wag their tails? Is it supposed to indicate their mood swings?

Tail-wagging activity is synonymous with dogs, however, it seems strange when ducks shake and wag their tails and what it is supposed to mean.

Seeing a duck wag its tail is a pleasing sight and they look quite adorable while doing it. Ducks try to communicate several things with their actions, tail-wagging is one of them.

Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails?

A duck wagging its tail could mean a number of things depending on the situation. Most duck owners have observed ducks wag their tails when excited or in a happy mood.

They also try to find or attract a partner during the mating season by wagging their tails. Often, it does not mean anything and might be the result of normal waddling.

Ducks walk a certain way and their bodies sway from side to side, so, this behavior could also imply that ducks are trying to keep their balance while walking.

Reasons Why Ducks Wag Their Tails

Pets and duck owners need to understand why ducks behave a certain way and take necessary action if required.

After learning why they wag their tails, it is easy to decide whether you should be worried about this behavioral trait or not.


Ducks tend to wag their tails, flap their wings, and jump from one point to another in excitement.

Excitement is so evident in their behavior leading to several cute actions. Generally, ducks tend to shake their tails when in a good or happy mood.

There could be several things that make the duck excited, however, the most apparent cause is food or tasty snacks. Learn When Can Ducks Go Outside?

After being well-fed, having a nice drink, or sighting a familiar face, the excited ducks are bound to wag their tails. Learn What Ducks eat in winter.

Mating Season

Male ducks vigorously shake their tails and wings when a female duck is around. This certain mating behavior indicates that they are trying to get the attention of the female duck.

That’s how ducks flirt and the male tries to woo females for mating. Tail-wagging is coupled with other specific mating behavior like wing flapping, preening, and head pumping. Mallard ducks mate for life and their behavior is common.

This tail-wagging behavior is not seasonal as domesticated ducks breed throughout the year. So, this mating-specific behavior can proceed all year round.

To Shake Off Water

Being semi-aquatic birds, they spend a lot of time swimming. So, it is kind of a habitual technique to wag their tails and flap their wings to shake off water from all parts of their body.

It is quite similar to how dogs keep them dry after a swim. As important as it is for ducks to get wet, it is equally crucial to dry themselves off after a swim. Ducks tend to air-dry faster after this particular shaking motion.

They shake off excess water droplets by wagging the tail several times. This behavior can also be an expression of satisfaction and enjoyment after a nice, long swim.


Ducks have a waddling walk style with short steps and a clumsy swaying motion. They walk this way because of their size and body shape.

The clumsy swaying of the duck’s body throws the weight over, requiring the need for a balancing motion.

They balance their weight by the wagging of their tail. Duck waddling shifts the body from side to side, therefore, they balance the weight by making use of the tail.

Not all ducks waddle as they walk, therefore, some ducks do not need to use their tail as they walk.

To Cool Off

A somewhat less typical reason to wag their tail is to cool off after stress and relax. They do so to try to calm down after a stressful situation.

If the ducks have been through an unpleasant situation like escaping a predator or some other type of stress, they wagtails as a calming mechanism.

Though this calming behavior is not frequently observed by the duck owners, still, it could be a reason for tail-wagging.


Ducks suffering from some illness tend to shake their wings and tails during the warm weather.

In case the duck has been infected, the owner has to take immediate action by isolating it from the herd and consulting the veterinarian. Ducks wag their tail to alarm against predators.

It could be because the duck is suffering from wet feathers, it would help give a bath and dry the bird properly. Do not let the ducks swim longer than necessary to prevent such conditions.


Now that you know different reasons for this behavior, it would be easier to figure out the cause next time you see your duck wagging its tail. This tail-wagging ritual is most performed after swimming or in excitement.

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