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Why Do Geese Honk When They Fly? (To Keep Flock Together)

Why Do Geese Honk When They Fly

If you have the misfortune of living under a goose migration path, you will already know they are LOUD! Even when they are hundreds of feet above you in the air, the concurrent honking of hundreds of geese is unmistakable, but why do they do it? Why don’t they just fly silently like normal birds?

Geese honk while they fly to keep themselves together. In the air, visibility is sometimes low, and geese rely on the constant honking of their flock to keep themselves in the V formation they fly in, which enables them to fly for longer and more efficiently.

In this article, we’ll look at how geese rely on honking when they fly, why they honk constantly in mid-air, and why they honk in unison when they are taking off. 

Reasons Why Geese Honk During Flight

flying geese

Geese honk while they are flying in formation to keep the flock together.

Geese migrate in all weather conditions, even when it’s cloudy and visibility is low. Geese also migrate at night when it’s harder for them to see the rest of their flock formation, so the flock’s honking helps keep them together.

Geese use their energy to honk, so it seems counterintuitive for them to honk while flying. Surely they would be able to fly further and more efficiently if they weren’t constantly honking?

The reason geese honk in spite of the increased energy requirement is that the efficiency savings by staying in formation vastly outweigh the small energy loss caused by honking.

Do Geese Honk Only While Flying?

Geese don’t honk only while they are flying, but there is some research that shows geese honk more often while they are flying in formation than when they are on the ground.

Geese honk almost continuously when flying, which is quite a feat when you consider that geese migration routes can span thousands of miles.

Geese honk while they are on the ground too, especially around their nests, or when they are looking for a mate. 

Read More: Do Geese Mate for Life?

Why Geese Honk During Take Off

geese

When geese take off, they do so in unison. This is important since they fly together they need to take off and land together too to enable them to get into formation easily.

To accomplish this, geese start honking and squawking as they take off, to alert their neighbors and nearby geese that it’s time to leave.

The end result is a sort of Mexican wave of geese, all taking off and honking together. It’s an amazing spectacle, and incredibly loud.

Other Reasons Geese Honk

Geese don’t only honk in the sky during long migration flights. They honk on short flights between feeding spots, and even on the ground when they are safely in their nest or on the water.

Let’s take a look at some other times geese honk and why:

1. To Defend Against Predators

On the ground and in the air, geese face many predators. Although a single honking goose may not deter a fox from attacking, or a bird of prey from snatching a goose mid-air, the combined honking of a flock of geese is enough to deter all but the most determined predators.

Read More: What Animals Eat Geese?

2. To Protect Their Nests

goose nest

When geese are protecting their nests, any incursion into the area around their nest by other geese, humans, or other animals will incur a loud, aggressive response from the defending goose.

3. For Navigation

The main reason geese honk while they are in the air is for navigation purposes, to maintain the integrity of the formation the flock flies in. 

If one goose breaks away, it reduced the efficiency of the formation, so it’s crucial for them to stick together, and the constant honking during flight helps them to do that when it’s dark outside or there is poor visibility due to weather.

Read More: Why do geese honk at night?

4. During Courting Rituals

Geese have interesting and unique courting rituals not seen in any other birds. 

During the courting period, male geese vie for attention from the female geese by honking and dipping their heads in and out of the water. 

According to CPW, a voluntary organization that looks after Canada Geese, during the courting period the male geese will take to the skies, honking loudly at each other and chasing each other all over to get the attention of their desired mates.

Conclusion

To sum up, geese honk when they fly mostly to keep themselves together. Flying in formation is extremely important for geese, as it affords them massive energy savings by reducing drag for the geese following.

Their constant honking allows the rest of the formation to maintain their position, even when visibility is low and they can’t stay in formation by sight.

When geese take off (as a flock), you will also hear them all honking in unison. This is to “spread the word” to the rest of the flock that it’s time to go, and helps keep the flock together.

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