charming multicolored drake swimming in lake

Why Do Ducks Bob Their Heads? (Answered)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Ever seen a flock of ducks playing and splashing in a pool of water and noticed that head bobbing movement? Really cute right?

And wondered what it means? Ducks are very social birds and they tend to communicate a lot – whether it be for attention, food or to mate.

Why do ducks bob their heads? Ducks bob their head to say hello or to flirt with a mate. It is a type of communication among ducks during mating season to attract a partner or to signify that they are interested in mating. Broody females will also bob their heads as a sign of dominance telling other females to stay away from her nest.

Why do ducks bob their heads?

why do ducks bob their heads
Photo by Ellie Burgin on

There are a couple of reasons why ducks bob their heads especially when walking up and down

I also noticed that ducks display two types of bobbing – they bob up and down and they also bob sideways.

When a duck bobs their head up and down it is a communication attempt to flirt and to get a mate for mating season.

Both male and females will bob their heads at each other to flirt and to signify interest in each other.

To them it’s an easy way to communicate and let the other know that they are interested.

Seems like a very easy and fun way to get a mate and tell them you like them if you ask me. Not too complex and everyone knows where they stand. Lol – just kidding

Bobbing their head from side to side on the other hand is usually done by broody females as a sign of dominance signaling to other females to stay away from her nest.

When she engages in this behavior, she is quite unhappy and as the leaf female in the flock this is her own way of communicating to the other females to leave her “man” alone and to stay clear from her nest.

Ducks are social and vocal communicators and they have different ways of communicating what they want at various times

Bobbing their head is one of them and it sure gets the job done for them.

Are there other ways ducks communicate their courtship intentions?

If you keep ducks as pets or for their eggs, then you should learn their behaviours and how they communicate.

Like I just mentioned, ducks are very social birds and they love to communicate.

Here are some ways ducks will communicate to you their intentions

  • Head pumping – Ducks (both male and female) will bob their heads together at the same time as a way to flirt and signal to each other that they should be partners.
  • Head up, Tail up – What happens here is that the drake with a loud whistle will pull his tail and wings up and show off his purple blue secondaries while compressing his body. This is a quick and easy way for drakes to impress females
  • Grunt whistle – A grunt whistle is a one second display where the males comes out of the water, pulls his head up and then gives off a loud whistle, followed by a grunt while moving back into a normal posture. This is another way to signal their intention and flirt with females.
  • Nod swimming – Lastly, ducks both male and female will swim rapidly for a short distance with their necks held low just grazing the surface of the water. Females usually do this as a signal to other males that they are interested in mating. This will then stimulate the males to come out and display.


Ducks bob their head as a way to flirt with and attract a mate during mating season.

It is not something that happens all the time like other birds. It happens only during mating season and as a way to show dominance by the lead female.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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