Geese make various noises, including honk, hink, bark, whistle, and hiss, in a similar way to other waterfowl species like ducks and swans. In addition, ornithologists have discovered some unique geese calls only made in very specific situations, including an alarm call when they feel threatened, and a brood call to call their goslings.
Geese are some of the most social of all bird species, often living in flocks several thousand birds strong and famously mating for life. It’s not surprising then that geese have quite a large range of vocalizations that they use to communicate with their flock and other animals.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the unique calls and vocalizations geese make and learn about what each of them means.
Noises that Geese Can Make
Most people know that geese are quite noisy creatures, but their stereotypical honking is only scratching the surface of their complex series of calls and vocalizations.
Here are some different calls and noises a goose might make, what they sound like, and when they might make them…
|Call||Used By||Sounds Like||Meaning|
|Honk||All geese||Low pitched and loud call||Almost any situation. Honking is the default noise of a goose.|
|Hink||Female geese||Higher pitched call||Greeting call|
|Brood Call||Mother Geese||Low Warbling or Murmuring||Mother geese calling to her goslings|
|Alarm Call||All Geese||Loud shrieking||When a goose sees a predator or threat to the flock|
|Cackle||All Geese||Laughter||Greeting other birds, and used in mating ritual|
|Whistle||Goslings||A songbird chirping||How baby geese (goslings) call before they can honk.|
|Hiss||All Geese||A loud cat hissing||Used as a threat display to ward off predators or threats.|
Honk is the most common sound made by geese. Geese honk in almost any situation to communicate with other geese, or to ward off predators or other animals.
Similar to a duck’s quack or a chicken’s cluck, a goose’s honk is the default noise made when a goose wants to vocalize.
A lesser-known sound, a hink is a higher-pitched sound made only by female geese and is usually used as a greeting.
When a goose pair meet, the male (also known as a Gander) will continuously honk at the female goose, who will hink back in response. As the two synchronize, eventually the pair sounds like a single bird.
This is the perfect metaphor for a goose pair, who typically mate for life.
The Wildlife Rescue League describes a hink as sounding somewhat similar to the barking of a small dog.
3. Brood Call
A brood call is a low murmuring sound made by a goose with a brood of goslings, to call them back to their mother.
Like many social bird species, individual geese have slightly different brood calls to help chicks identify their mother easily.
A cackling goose sounds almost like it’s laughing. Similar to ducks and swans, geese cackle to let other birds in their flock know where they are, as a greeting, and during their complex courting rituals.
There is even a species of goose called the Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) which is very closely related to the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis).
5. Alarm Call
A goose’s alarm call is a loud, shrill shriek. Loud enough to pierce through any background noise, geese reserve this sound for when they spot a predator like a fox or wolf that could pose a threat to their flock.
In a 2003 study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, it was found that playing the alarm call of geese over a loudspeaker was enough to drive geese away from an area and prevent them from returning.
Only juvenile geese (goslings) can whistle. This high-pitched chirping noise is used to communicate before they are old enough to honk.
Whistling goslings sound like the regular chirping of some other smaller birds.
A goose hisses as a warning. Usually part of a larger threat display, the hissing is often accompanied by flapping wings and swinging necks.
Geese may hiss at other geese, other birds, or other animals they feel may be a threat to them, similar to a growling dog, hissing cat, or roaring lion.
If you’re feeding geese at the park and they hiss at you, it just means they are scared of you and want you to leave them alone. (But leave the seeds!)
Read More: Why you shouldn’t feed ducks and geese bread
Do Geese Honk or Quack?
Typically, geese do not make quacking noises like ducks, but loud, lower-pitched honk sounds instead. A duck’s quack is similar to a goose’s honk because it’s the default noise made when the bird vocalizes.
Similar to ducks quacking, geese honk almost anywhere and for any reason, honking loudly or softly depending on the situation.
Although a goose’s honk is more low-pitched than a duck’s quack, the two species frequently live and nest together in large mixed flocks of waterfowl, and geese are intelligent enough to imitate sounds they hear.
Smaller species of geese have honks that sound more like a duck’s quack, and larger duck species have loud quacks that sound more similar to a goose’s honk.
Can Geese Sing?
Geese are not songbirds and can not sing. The closest noise to singing that a goose can make is a high-pitched whistling only usually heard coming from goslings.
Birds usually sing to attract a mate. Instead of singing, geese have complicated courtship rituals that involve dancing, cackling, and bobbing their heads in and out of the water.
Read More: Do Geese Mate For Life?
What Noise do Geese Make While Flying?
Geese honk while flying. This helps them stick together in a ‘V’ formation, which has proven aerodynamic benefits over flying solo or in a disorganized group.
Similarly, geese honk and cackle wildly when it comes time for the flock to take flight in unison. The wild honks help the geese to coordinate their takeoff and ensure they stay together in the air.
Read More: Why Do Geese Honk When They Fly?
What Noises do Geese Make at Night
At night, geese may honk quietly, similar to cows lowing in a cow herd. This signals that everything is alright and helps the birds understand their position within the flock.
If geese see a predator, especially at night, they are likely to shriek wildly to warn the rest of the flock.
Geese have to deal with foxes, wolves, wild dogs, humans, rats, seals, and snakes as potential threats depending on whether they are in their warm overwinter spot or their arctic summer nesting grounds.
Read More: Where Do Geese Go At Night?
What Does It Mean if a Goose Honks At You
Geese honk for any number of reasons, including a friendly greeting and a warning to predators, so it’s important to be aware of the goose’s body language. In general, if a wild goose is honking at you, it probably means you’re getting a bit too close to them.
Other signs of a threat display include flapping their wings wildly, hissing, enlarging their body, and swinging their necks. If you notice these signs, the goose definitely doesn’t want you anywhere near it and it probably has a nest nearby.
Where geese have become used to humans (in parks, ponds, and farms) geese may also have learned that if they honk at tourists, they will feed them.
Read More: What Makes Geese So Aggressive?
To sum up, geese honk, hink, cackle, and shriek depending on the situation. Their complex series of calls shed some light on the complex social structures found in goose society.
Some geese calls are much rarer than others, including the low brooding call of a mother goose calling to her goslings. Since many geese nest in the high arctic, it’s not a common sound for humans.
Certain sounds that geese make can be considered a warning, including the high-pitched shriek of their distress call, and the loud hiss of their threat display.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.