Why Do Ducks Wag Their Tails?

Ducks are wierd creatures, we all know this already. But why do they wag their tails from side to side? Is it because they are happy or just because they got that groove thang going? I noticed that they do it while the eat and drink, or even just play in my water bucket. But not necessarily when they walk and talk and act like a regular duck.

Not trying to sound flippant, but they do it because they can.

Palm warblers and Eastern phoebes wag their tails up and down. So ducks wag theirs side to side. I guess they think it’s ducky. In the same vein, Carolina wrens hold their tails up most of the time, but not all the time. Why, o why?

Since no man has yet been able to effectively communicate with these birds, we can never know for sure.

Except for Alex, of course, but he’s a parrot.

No worries, I was just curious. My neighbour’s ducks like to play in this big bucket I have under the spout of the water pump (the manually operated ones like you may see in the old movies). But the chickens do not walk around wagging their tails like a hooker on Montrose in downtown Houston.
The ducks are much more amusing to watch, though for many reasons. Being water fowl without a pond, they waddle to and fro with their little pidgeon toed webbed feet. They slurp water and then tilt their heads back to get it down their skinny little necks. And they watch my front gate like guard dogs. Of course, they are just waiting for me to open it again to let them out. Even though they have not been clipped, they apparently find flying too much work and seldom exceed one foot above from ground level.
But the neighbours dog is even cooler…it actually knows how to pull the gate open, but has not yet figured out how to unlatch it. It will reach up with its paw and pull open the gate just like you or I would, and it aint been trained, either.
What a wierd world in which I reside.


Both. Sometimes we’re just happy, other times ya just gotta shake it.

My most sincere and humble apologies…no disrespect intended to the wonderful Why A Duck.

No need for apologies. I was just sticking up for my kind. We are sort of a weird lot, but no more that your average waterfowl.

Well, I own parrots and not ducks, but parrots wag their tails, too. Near as I can tell, among the parrots it’s either “hello” or “thank you”, depending on context. For instance, if one lands next to me or the other bird he’ll wag his tail. Or if I fill a food bowl with yummies I’ll get tail wags.

So… presumably the tail wagging is some form of duck communication. Whether it means the same as among parrots I haven’t a clue. Further observation may help you generate some guesses.

It could be a love/hate thaang.

Some ducks show aggressive behavior by stretching their head out, hissing, and making themselves look bigger and badder, along with the tail-wag bit.

Or it could be a duck version of a come-hither look. Black Ducks, Wood Ducks, and Harlequins (I think) start pair-formation in the fall, and displays can last for a quite a period of time. Again, tail-wagging may play a role, along with head-bobbing, bill-dipping or other behaviors intended to catch the eye.
[sub]Or maybe it’s gas.[/sub]

To shake the water off