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Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails? (And Why It Could Mean a Problem)

Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails? (And Why It Could Mean a Problem)

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The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Ducks are incredibly cute birds that many people have fallen in love with. You might have ducks that come around your property from time to time.

It’s normal for people to admire the ducks from afar, and sometimes you can even feed the ducks if you’re careful enough. You might like ducks so much that you choose to raise ducklings of your own.

Whether you’re keeping ducks as pets or if you’re just an admirer of wild ducks, it’s possible that you’ll notice them wagging their tails on occasion. You might be wondering why ducks do this and if it’s supposed to indicate something or another.

Keep reading to learn about why ducks wag their tails. This will help you to understand exactly why ducks are doing this so that you can appreciate ducks even more than before.

Ducks Wag Their Tails When They’re Excited

Ducks Searching for Food in the Lake with Duck Tails Above the Water

One of the most common reasons why you will see ducks wagging their tails when you’re near them is because they’re excited. Ducks that are being kept as pets might enjoy it when you play with them or interact with them in certain ways.

When a duck wags its tail, this could be an indication that the duck is happy or excited in some way. In this regard, it isn’t too different from how dogs act when they’re happy.

If you have a pet duck and it starts wagging its tail, then it could just be saying that it’s happy to see you. Or the duck might be excited that it’s about to get fed or that you’re about to do something else for it.

What Usually Gets Ducks Excited?

Ducks and Drakes Swimming in the Water

The most common thing that will cause pet ducks to get excited is food. All animals are going to respond well to food, and it isn’t unusual to see your duck’s tail start wagging when it’s feeding time.

It’s not always going to be the food that is the cause of the duck wagging its tail, though. Sometimes the duck might just be in a really good mood.

If you’re playing with the duck or just spending time with it and you notice it wagging its tail, then that’s likely an indication that it’s happy. It means that you’re doing something that it likes or that it’s enjoying spending time this way.

When you have fun with your ducks and you take care of them well, it’s likely that you’re going to see the ducks wag their tails quite often. They get excited about food and sometimes they get excited about having fun with their owners.

Ducks wagging their tails can mean other things besides happiness, though. In fact, some of the reasons why ducks wag their tails are very important in the wild.

Calming Down

Mallard Ducks Sitting on a Submerged Log

A somewhat less typical reason why ducks wag their tails has to do with calming down after a stressful situation. Ducks that recently went through some type of stress might wag their tails while they’re trying to calm themselves.

So there might be occasions when tail wagging indicates that the duck is just starting to wind down from some type of excitement or stressful situation. This isn’t necessarily as normal as ducks wagging their tails for happy reasons.

In fact, not all duck owners agree that ducks wag their tails as a calming mechanism. This is an observed behavior that some duck owners have noted, but others haven’t seen it happen so much.

If you think that this might apply to your ducks, then it could be a reason for the tail wagging. However, there are plenty of other reasons to consider.

Ducks Wagging Their Tails Can Also Be Related to Mating

Female Mallard Standing on the Banks of a River

There are times when male ducks will start wagging their tails in an effort to attract mates. During the mating season, male ducks will be looking for mates.

This is generally considered to be a male-specific behavior, but you might see a female wagging its tail. It’s the males that are going to be making the moves during the mating season, though.

Aside from male ducks wagging their tails, you’ll also see things such as preening, wing-flapping, and head-pumping motions. All of these are specific actions that are part of the mating rituals of ducks.

If you see some of these other behaviors and actions in conjunction with tail wagging, then you should understand that the ducks are trying to mate. You should leave the ducks be and let them handle their business in peace.

Tail Wagging Can Help Ducks to Shake Off Water

Mallard Ducks Sitting on a Submerged Log

Another reason why ducks will shake their tails involves drying off after getting wet. You know that ducks are considered to be semi-aquatic birds, and they spend a lot of time swimming around in the water.

For this reason, ducks have developed good techniques for shaking the water off of their bodies. Tail wagging can occur because a duck is simply shaking off water after going for a dip.

Ducks love the water and they actually need to ensure that they’re going for swims every so often. If they don’t, then their feathers can dry up and stop producing the oil that helps their feathers to remain waterproof.

Water is crucial to ducks, but they don’t wish to remain soaking wet all the time. When the ducks are done swimming, you’ll usually see them shake and get a bunch of water off of their bodies.

Part of this shaking motion involves tail wagging, and it doesn’t look too different than when your dog shakes to get dry. Excess water is shaken off of the ducks because of the fast tail wagging, and the ducks will be able to get completely dry a lot faster due to not having so much water on their feathers any longer.


Have you seen your duck shaking its wings and its tail? If it’s doing this and it’s hot outside, then it could be an indication that it’s sick.

Your duck could be suffering from a condition known as wet feathers. You can help the duck by giving it a thorough bath and then drying it properly.

You’ll want to prevent the duck from swimming longer than necessary for a while if this winds up being the case. Inform your veterinarian of what is going on so that a professional can check your duck.

Advice About Caring for Ducks

Mallard Ducks Swimming in the Lake

If you’re taking care of ducks on your property, then you’re going to want to do your best to protect them. When you live in a rural area, it’s going to be crucial to give your ducks some type of shelter where they can hide from predators.

Build a strong pen where your ducks can sleep at night. Do your best to build an enclosure for your ducks where they will be able to stay safe and have a good time.

Ensure that your ducks have access to hay in the pen so that they can stay warm as well. As long as you’re giving the ducks food and water, everything should be good in the enclosure.

Ducks will make noise if they detect predators or get scared. Sometimes noisy ducks can be an annoyance, but you might need to pay attention for the sake of protecting your ducks.

Sometimes you might have issues with ducks quacking a lot for no apparent reason, but there are types of ducks that you can get that are quieter. Some types of ducks are louder than others, and you might be interested in quieter ducks if you don’t wish to disturb your neighbors.

Overall, caring for ducks has the potential to be very satisfying. If you do a good job, then you’re likely going to see ducks wagging their tails a lot over the coming years.

Final Thoughts

Ducks are going to wag their tails for a number of different reasons. Now you know about the various situations that can cause ducks to wag their tails.

You’ll see ducks doing this in the wild for different reasons, and it isn’t too unusual to observe this behavior from a distance. Sometimes tail wagging is a part of a mating ritual that is performed by males.

It’s even more likely that you’ll see ducks shaking and wagging their tails after they have been swimming for a while. They do this to get all of the excess water off of their bodies, and they’re very good at shaking water off with the tail-wagging motion.

Pet ducks will often wag their tails simply because they’re excited about something. A duck might be excited to receive food, but it can also wag its tail when it’s happy to be around you.

In many ways, ducks wagging their tails isn’t different from dogs wagging their tails. It can indicate happiness sometimes and it often involves excitement.

Trying to tell the reason why your duck is wagging its tail will require you to pay attention to the situation. The context of when the duck is wagging its tail will give you the information you need to know.

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