Does Your Duck Wag Its Tail? 4 Signs Of Affection

Ducks are very social animals within their flock, but they can be very social and expressive with their owners too. Ducks can show you their emotions if you interpret them properly. One way they may communicate with you is through wagging their tail, but what does this mean exactly?

Ducks will wag their tails as a form of affection, showing you that they are happy or excited. Some other ways ducks may show affection include nibbling your feet and hands when you feed them, and they may try to grab your attention through noise too, but there are many other signs. 

What else could it mean when your duck wags its tail? If your duck doesn’t show you the signs of affection, is there any way to increase your bond with your duck to help it feel comfortable around you? Let’s find out!

Photo 216310819 © Elena Tsybina |

Do Ducks Wag Their Tails When Happy?

Ducks are one of the most well-known and loved birds in the world today. They are smart creatures that seem to have quite advanced emotional development compared to other birds. 

These animals are social creatures, so you will generally find them in groups or pairs, and they do seem to form strong bonds with their companions. 

Ducks come in all shapes, sizes, and types, but there is one thing that they all have in common; they all wag their tails, but do they wag their tails when they are happy, or is it just something that ducks do?

Ducks do use their tails to express happiness, and they will wag their tails, just like a dog, when they are excited. This is one of the common reasons ducks wag their tails. So, if your pet duck begins to wag its tail when you are interacting or playing with toys together, then you know your duck is happy.  

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Other Reasons Why Ducks Wag Their Tails

Unfortunately, there are other reasons why your duck may be wagging its tail apart from expressing happiness. It is important to know these other reasons as the wagging tail could indicate a problem with your duck that needs to be urgently treated.

It is crucial to remember that your duck will only wag its tail out of happiness and excitement when interacting with you or its other duck companions. 

So, if you notice that your duck is wagging its tail when it’s not interacting with anything or anyone, then you need to take note of it. You need to ensure that there is nothing going on with your duck that could negatively affect its health. Let’s take a look at the other reasons your duck may wag its tail. 

The Duck Is Preening Its Feathers

One of the common reasons why your duck may be wagging its tail when it’s not excited is due to it preening its feathers. Preening is when a duck gets rid of worn-out and old feathers that they cannot use anymore to make way for new feathers.

Ducks generally preen their feathers when they come out of the water, as it is easier to do when their feathers are wet. So, when they come out of the water, they will wag their tails to move the water to the end of their tails to the feathers that need preening. 

Once the skin around the feathers is wet, the duck will start grooming itself and “plucking” out the old feathers that need to be removed. This is one of the main reasons ducks need a clean source of water to maintain good health.

Here are some tips on how to keep your duck’s water from freezing in winter

It’s Mating Season For The Duck 

When your duck begins to wag its tail, especially male ducks, at a certain time of year, this could indicate that it is ready to start mating. Male ducks will sometimes wag their tails to try and attract a mate during the mating season. 

Wagging tails in mating season is usually considered to be specific to male ducks; however, some people have reported seeing female ducks wagging their tails for this reason too. 

When your duck is wagging its tail to try and attract a mate, it will be accompanied by other actions too, and won’t only be tail wagging. The other actions your duck will exhibit include wing-flapping, preening, and head-bopping movements. 

All of these acts are part of your duck’s mating ritual and will be performed together. So, if your duck is only wagging its tail, then the reason for it may not be to attract a mate. 

Ducks are amazing animals on the farm or as a pet and there is so much to learn about caring for them and having them around. Having a helpful guide to raising ducks is a perfect way to keep on top of your ducks needs.

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The Duck Could Be Sick

Unfortunately, if your duck wags its tail and shakes its wings, this could indicate that your duck is sick and needs some help from you. 

If you have been experiencing hot weather and your duck begins to show these two signs together, this could mean that your duck is suffering from a condition called wet feathers. This is where the integrity of your ducks’ feathers has decreased. 

This could be because of the loss of the necessary oil production from the preen gland of your duck or possible physical damage on the barbules and barbs of the ducks’ feathers which decreases the effectiveness of the feathers keeping the duck dry.

Then when your duck swims, water is trapped under the feathers, which can lead to some unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms for your duck. You will need to treat this immediately by placing your duck in lukewarm water with a bit of mild dishwashing liquid.

Wash your duck well in this water, ensuring you move your hands gently in the direction of the bird’s feathers. Then rinse all the soap off them and do not allow them to swim for a day. You should inform your vet of the condition as they can step in and help treat wet feathers if necessary. 

Look out for your other signs that your ducks may be unwell, Here are 9 reasons your ducks shiver and vibrate

4 Other Signs Of Affection That Ducks Will Show

So, we know that ducks will wag their tails as a form of affection as they are showing you that they are happy or excited, but will they show their affection any other way?

Ducks are social animals, meaning they are playful and friendly birds that have a few methods to show you their affection. These birds are also reactive, so if you are in a good mood and show them love, they are more likely to do the same. 

This is part of why ducks are very popular to keep as pets as they will make you smile, and they will love you as any other ordinary domesticated pet would. Let’s go over the other signs of affection your duck may show you. 

1. Your Duck Will Cuddle With You 

One of the cutest ways your duck may show its affection for you is by cuddling with you after a long day or after a good, fun play session. Ducks will only cuddle up to you if they like you and feel comfortable around you. 

So, if your duck does cuddle you, and does this often, then you know they love you. If your duck falls asleep while cuddling you, you know they adore you and feel safe with you, which is a good feeling.

Your duck is basically saying that you are now a part of its family group, as this is what ducks generally do with other ducks in the wild.  

2. Your Duck May Follow You Around 

Something that your duck may do to show its affection towards you is following you around as you go about your daily routine. Ducks will only follow people they like and are attached to, so this is a sure way to know that your duck loves you. 

Your duck may also follow you when you take it to a new location that the duck doesn’t know, as your duck will think of you as its safe space and stick by your side. 

3. Your Duck May Lightly Nibble At Your Feet And Hands

Something that duck owners will experience if their ducks like them is that their ducks might nibble at their hands and feet while they are feeding their ducks. They will not nip at you hard; this is more like a little kiss from your duck. 

Many duck owners think of this as their duck’s way of saying thank you for the food. Ducks will not do this to people they do not like or don’t trust, so if your duck gives you little nibbles when you feed it, then they most likely love and appreciate you. 

Check out the details and clever tips on how and when to feed your ducks

4. The Duck May Try To Grab Your Attention Through Noise

A common way ducks show their affection towards each other and their human owners is by trying to grab your attention. Your duck may begin making noise and flapping its wings until you give it attention. 

This is basically the duck version of “hey, mom/dad, look at me!” Ducks will only try to grab your attention when they see you like family and like you; otherwise, they will not make noise since they would want you to leave them alone. 

Your duck may even chatter to you while you are interacting with it to ensure that your attention stays on them. A duck’s quacking can be a sign of affection but if it’s quacking incessantly there could be other reasons. Learn more in my article,  Why Won’t My Duckling Stop Quacking

Methods To Bond With Your Duck

Now that you know how ducks show their affection towards their owners, you may be looking for these signs in your duck. 

Do not feel disappointed or offended if you don’t notice these signs from your duck, this could mean that you need to do a few exercises to gain more of your duck’s trust for them to feel comfortable enough with you to show their affection.

Thankfully, you can use a few methods to improve your relationship with your duck and help you two bond with each other better. Let’s go through how you can grow your bond with your duck.

Let The Duck Imprint On You 

If you are lucky enough to hatch your duck yourself or know someone who is hatching ducks, and you are buying one of them, you can have your duck imprint on you when they are born. 

Not many people can have their duck imprint on them, but it greatly increases the bond your duck will have with you if you can be there for its hatching. However, this is unlikely to happen, especially if it’s your first duck, so there are other methods you can practice to bond with your duck.

Handle Your Duck Well From A Young Age

If you have a young duck, then one of the most important methods you have to your advantage to help you two form a strong bond is by ensuring you handle your duck well from the very beginning. 

You need to treat your duck with respect and make sure you do nothing that will hurt it, as this will affect the duck’s attachment to you. You need to make your duck feel safe and comfortable with you, so be gentle when you handle them and make it a pleasant experience.

Offer Your Duck Some Treats For A Cuddle

If you buy a young duck, then something you can do to increase your bond to each other is to employ what is called “forced” loving sessions. This is where you intentionally spend time with your duck. 

You can play some games together and reinforce that you are not going to hurt your duck and show that they can trust you by having a few treats on hand during your time together. 

Ducks are known to respond well to treats like black soldier fly larvae and meal worms, so find out what teats are your duck’s favorites and use them to your advantage. 

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Be Consistent With Handling Your Duck 

With ducks, just like with most other domesticated pets, consistency plays an important role in forming your bond with each other. You need to carefully handle your duck and spend time with them every day to help them realize you are their friend, and they can trust you. 


Ducks are interesting animals, and they do share their emotions with each other and the people they trust. One way they show their happiness is by wagging their tails, but there are many other signs they can show you affection to. 

Most ducks are sweethearts and will love their owners if you treat them well and do things that make them happy. If you do not see signs of affection from your duck, you can increase your bond with them, but ensure you are always gentle and patient. Good luck with your duck!

Dane McManis

Dane started learning about farming while volunteering on a farm. Now he and his wife raise chickens, pigs, and ducks on their small farm with their two little girls.

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