There are some bird species like the nightingale that are famed for their sweet songs and twilight serenades. On the other hand, there are geese. Geese don’t sing, they honk. Actually, they honk, hiss, cackle, and huck, depending on the situation and they aren’t afraid of honking all throughout the night.
Geese honk at night for different reasons depending on whether they are in the air or on the ground. Geese honk at night to keep the flock safe from predators, defend their territory, when they are arguing over a mate, and to keep themselves together with the flock during migration.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons why geese honk at night, explore each reason in detail, and look at how you can stop them from honking if you happen to own geese.
Reasons Why Geese Honk At Night
Geese are very loud birds and will honk all through the night both on the ground and in the air. Geese are especially loud in groups, where they honk to communicate with other birds, and when they are nesting when they honk and hiss to defend their nest.
Let’s look at some of the reasons geese are honking, hissing, and hollering throughout the night.
Geese are well known for their incredible migration flights, which often span thousands of miles across oceans, deserts, mountain ranges, and forests with no discernible landmarks to keep the geese on track.
It’s crucial for geese to stick together during their migration flights, which is no easy task in bad weather or at night.
During migration flights, geese let out a constant barrage of honking and hollering to enable the rest of the flock to stay close and in formation. Staying in formation ensures the geese are all heading in the same direction and maintains the efficiency savings afforded by formation flying.
Read More: Why Do Geese Honk While They Fly?
2. Fighting over Mates
Geese are monogamous and often mate for life, even after a mate dies, many geese will go through a mourning period and remain alone for the rest of their lives.
Because geese mate for life, choosing a mate is a big deal for geese and they go through intensive mating rituals involving head dipping, calling, and preening.
Interestingly, the female goose usually selects her preferred male goose mate, so when you hear geese fighting it’s usually the females squabbling with each other.
Read More: Do Ducks and Geese Mate?
3. Encourage Slow Geese to Speed Up!
When flying together, it’s important for the flock to stay in the most efficient formation possible.
The nature of the V formation is that any geese who fall behind will end up breaking the V and making life harder for themselves because they lose the reduction in drag that comes with following the goose in front.
For this reason, geese constantly honk when flying in formation, to help other geese in the flock maintain their bearings and stay in formation.
When a slower goose starts falling behind, they will know straight away because the geese around them helpfully honk to give off their position, so geese can see when they are falling behind even if visibility is low.
4. Ward Off Predators
When a flock of geese is scared by a predator, the entire flock freaks out, unleashing a deafening cacophony of honking, cacking, hissing, and screeching that is enough to scare off even the hungriest fox.
On its own, a goose honk isn’t too scary. A fox or raccoon might still try their luck, either by attacking the adults or their goslings.
While a single honking goose alone may not be enough to scare off a determined fox, geese don’t live alone.
Read More: Natural Predators of Geese
5. Mark Their Territory
Geese mark their territory by being loud, honking, and hissing to alert other geese in the flock not to come too close to their territory.
Geese consider the space around their nests to be their private property. Any goose who accidentally wanders too close to another goose’s territory will be met with a loud honk or hiss.
The problem for geese is that the boundary around their nest is not well-defined. The borders are invisible, so the only way they can broadcast to other geese in the flock where their territory ends is by loudly honking.
How To Stop Geese Honking At Night?
Geese have been around for far longer than humans, and if you have wild geese on your property it’s because your property is built on the land they have been migrating to for thousands of years. You can not control wild geese, and it’s illegal in most western countries to interfere with a nesting bird.
If you happen to own geese, I don’t need to tell you how loud they can be at night. Although honking is natural geese behavior, there are a few things you can try to help your geese feel safe and secure and minimize the honking.
1. Make Sure Your Geese have Enough Space
Geese squawk and squabble over territory, especially during breeding season. Ensure your geese have enough space for themselves without running into other geese.
2. Ensure Your Geese have Ample Food
A hungry goose is a noisy goose. Make sure you provide enough food for your geese to be able to forage for themselves without running into other geese, to avoid any warring waterfowl on your property.
3. Protect your Flock with a Well-Built Enclosure
Geese will honk a little bit no matter what you do, but you can reduce the wild racket of the entire flock honking at once by making sure no predators can get near them to frighten them.
In a 2015 article published in Farmers Weekly, egg farmer Graham Fuller explained that to protect against foxes, any wire fence should have an aperture (spacing between the wire) of no more than 50mm (2 inches) to prevent foxes from being able to stretch the wire out of shape.
Geese are very noisy at night, but they have very good reasons to be.
Geese honk at night to keep their flock together, to defend their territory from other geese (especially around breeding/nesting season) and to scare off predators like foxes.
If you own geese, you can help reduce the amount of honking they do by making them feel secure and calm, and by giving them plenty of space so they don’t have to fight with other geese over mates or territory.
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.