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Why Do Geese Honk While Migrating? 4 Reasons For This Behavior

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two geese bird flying

If you’ve ever watched a flock of geese fly overhead, you have likely heard their loud and obnoxious honking too. Although their honking may be downright annoying to us, it serves important functions during the migration process, as well as other parts in the goose’s life.

To learn why exactly geese honk while migrating, keep reading. There are four main reasons for this behavior, but there are some other reasons why geese honk during other parts of the year as well. Let’s dive in to learn more.

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4 Reasons Why Geese Honk When Migrating

Group Geese
Image Credit: hobbyknipse, Pixabay

Although we can never know for certain why geese honk during migration, scientists have good ideas behind the behavior. Here are the four most likely reasons that geese honk while migrating:

1. To Take Off in Unison

Whenever geese take off, each goose will start honking to alert one another that it’s time to leave. By honking in this way, no geese are left behind, and the entire flock gets to take off in unison. If geese were to stop honking during take-off, many geese would get left behind.

2. To Stay Together

Just as geese honk to stick together during takeoff, they often continue honking while flying. The purpose of this is to stay together during the entire journey. When skies are clear and weather fine, honking isn’t quite as necessary, but cloudy weather and bad rain sometimes make honking the only way for geese to know where their flock is located.

3. To Conserve Energy

Conserving energy is of up most importance during the migration to ensure that as many geese as possible make it to the final destination. By conserving their energy, it is most likely that the entire flock makes the journey, thus increasing the species’ survival over the long run.

One way that geese conserve energy is through honking in air. This idea might sound crazy at first, so let us explain.

By honking during flight, geese alert one another where they are, who’s falling back, and any other information that the entire flock needs to know. The flock as a whole gets to adjust their flying habits to the other members of the flock, thus conserving energy for the group.

More importantly, honking allows the geese to navigate themselves into the V position. This V position is ideal for conserving energy in air. As a result, geese conserve energy throughout the entire trip by honking and staying in the V formation.

4. To Navigate

Ultimately, honking in air comes down to navigation. Geese often honk to one another in order to learn about their position in the formation and to stay together during bad weather. In other words, honking plays a major role when it comes to navigation.eagle divider

Do Geese Only Honk When Flying?

Geese Migrating
Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay

Even though geese are most vocal while flying, geese will honk for other reasons too. Primarily, honking is either used as a form of communication to other geese or to scare off other predators. After all, most animals find the goose honk quite as loud and annoying as we do.

Here’s a closer look at other times geese honk:

To Fend Off Predators

Whether in the air or on the ground, goose can be attacked by other predators. The goose’s first form of defense is honking. Given that we can hear geese honking while they are flying way up in the sky, it’s no shock that these guys can get loud.

Especially whenever a female goose is protecting her nest, you can expect the goose to get incredibly loud and start honking wildly if another creature gets too close to the nest. If you happen to see a goose sitting on a nest, it’s best to stay away, or else you might get attacked.

Unfortunately, honking is often not enough to scare away predators if there is only one goose in the area. However, geese are often within a close distance to one another, which causes many geese to start honking once one does. Even the hungriest of predators are often deterred whenever they hear an entire flock honking.

To Attract a Mate

Honking isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, a lot of the courting ritual for geese revolves around honking. Whenever it’s time to reproduce, males will honk and put their heads in and out of the water in a rapid motion. Sometimes, the ritual will escalate to male geese chasing one another while honking, all in the hopes of getting a female goose’s attention.eagle divider


Most commonly, geese honk at one another during migration to take off in unison, stay together, conserve energy, and navigate. Without honking, geese will not be able to make it to their intended location in one piece.

Even though geese are most likely to honk during migration, there are some other times when they honk as well. For example, geese will often honk when defending themselves or a nest or when trying to attract a mate.

All of this proves that although the honking is annoying to us, it’s a crucial aspect of the flock’s migration and survival. Better yet, honking is absolutely required for geese as a species to not only survive but to thrive in the wild.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.