Duck & Goose Sounds & What they Mean to the Ducks & Geese
This is from my Duck & Goose Addict's Manual, it is copyrighted.
Chapter 6: Duck and Goose Communication
Some hunters may not realize that communication among ducks and geese is a combination of sound, body posture and action. The meaning of a call may be more related to body posture and action than to the sound of the call. Because it is difficult to duplicate body posture and action you need to understand the call in order to correctly recreate it. According to waterfowl researcher Dr. Jim Cooper there are two major factors that determine the meaning of a duck or goose call; the frequency and the intensity of the call. There are two other factors that determine the difference between different species and subspecies of ducks and geese; the pitch and duration of the individual notes of the calls.
The frequency or tempo (speed) with which a duck or goose calls is related to the action of the bird; the faster the motion of the duck or goose, the faster the call. The calling of a duck or goose on land or water is related to how fast it is moving. The calling of a duck or goose in the air is related to the downbeat of the wing stroke. When a goose is calling on the ground to keep the family in contact its calling is slow. When a goose is flying, the calling is directly related to the downbeat of the wing stroke, which is when the goose contracts it chest muscles and exhales. When a goose is flying in formation its call is a slow, measured honk. When a goose is pumping its wings rapidly during takeoff or landing, its calling is fast. Fast calls are a sign of a rapidly moving duck or goose.
The intensity (loudness) of the call is related to the mood of the duck or goose. The more anxious, excited, irritated or nervous the duck or goose is the louder the call is; taking off, landing, threatening and attacking are situations that may cause a duck to become anxious, which causes loud calling. If a goose is attacking another goose its calling is louder than if it is just threatening. Mating, threatening, attacking, landing and taking off are all intense times for ducks and geese, and their calling is often louder than normal at those times.
When a female duck uses a quack to keep the family together while she's feeding, the call is usually soft and slow. When the quack is used to keep the family together while flying the call is louder and faster. When the quack is used to get the family back together after it has been separated, or by a lone duck trying to locate its family or a flock in the air, the call is louder. When the quack is used as a hen jumps into the air after being alarmed it is loud and fast. When a hen uses a chuckle on the water the call is loud and slow, because the duck is not moving fast. When a hen uses the chuckle in the air the call is faster, because the duck is beating its wings rapidly. Remember this when you are calling; loud calls may be a sign of an excited duck or goose, or a lost duck or goose.
The pitch (musical tone) of the call, and the duration (length) of the notes of the call, are related to the size of the duck or goose. Generally speaking, the larger the species of duck or goose, the larger its chest cavity is, and the deeper the pitch of its call. And, generally speaking, the larger the species of duck or goose, the longer its wing are, the slower it beats its wings, the longer the notes of its call, and the slower the timing (rapidity) of the individual notes of its call. Although Teal and Mallards use the same basic decrescendo call, the Mallard decrescendo is lower in pitch, and the individual notes are longer and slower than the decrescendo call of the Teal. The call of a giant Canada goose consists of low pitched, long notes, that are medium spaced; herr-onk … herr-onk. The call of a small cackling Canada goose consists of high pitched, short notes that are quick paced; unc... unc. A study of Barnacle geese subspecies suggests that geese within that species, that have wider mouths than other subspecies, have higher pitched calls than subspecies with narrower mouths. This may be another reason why smaller subspecies of geese have higher pitched calls than larger subspecies of geese.
Puddle Duck Vocalizations During the fall most puddle duck hens of the genus Anas (Mallard, Black Duck, Gadwall, Blue-Winged Teal, Green-Winged Teal, Widgeon and Shoveler) use three calls: the Social Contact call, the Decrescendo call and the Incitement call. Drakes of these species use a deeper version of Social Contact call for social contact and often use a Mating call.
Hen Social Contact Call The Social Contact call is used by a hen to keep the family together, it is also used by hens to make other ducks aware of their presence. The hens of most puddle duck species use a slow, shortened version of their Decrescendo call as a Social Contact call; Mallard hens use a simple quack. This call may contain one or more drawn out notes spaced evenly apart; quaack...quaack...quaack. To imitate this call cup your hand over the barrel of the call like you were holding a bottle, and say quack. Your hand should remain cupped while you say the qua portion of the call; open your fingers on the ack.
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May Yahweh-God bless you and yours,
Hen Mating / Decrescendo Calls The Decrescendo call is used by hens to announce a willingness to pair bond; it may also be used by hens as general conversation. Although breeding doesn't usually occur until spring, the hens use the Decrescendowhen they begin forming pair bonds in the fall. The Decrescendo call sounds just like its Latin name implies; it starts out loud and becomes quieter as the duck runs out of air.
The decrescendo of the hen Mallard is often referred to by hunters as the hail, high ball, or greeting call. It usually consists of four to six notes, with the second note being the loudest and each successive note being softer. But it may be longer; I have heard a hen Mallard string seventeen quacks together while performing the decrescendo. To correctly perform this call the second note should be louder and higher in pitch than the other notes, with each of the following notes becoming softer quack-QUACK-quack-quack-quack-quack. Most callers leave their hand open while performing this call.
The hen Black Duck, Pintail and Shoveler use approximately the same Decrescendo call, and the same pitch as the mallard. The hen Gadwall uses the same but with a higher pitch and a faster sequence. The hen Widgeon uses a qua-awk; with 1 to 3 notes. Blue-Wing Teal and Cinnamon Teal use a high pitched quack with 3 to 4 notes, and the last two notes are usually cut off short.
Hen Agonistic / Incitement Calls Agonistic calls are named for the fact that the animal is agonizing, or arguing. The Incitement call is used by the hen to get her mate to drive another drake away from her; it is a threat call, with the hen telling another duck that if it doesn't leave her alone it may be attacked by her mate. The Incitement call used by hen puddle ducks is usually an insistent rapid call consisting of several short notes.
The Incitement call of the hen Mallard is referred to as the chuckle or feeding chuckle by hunters. The first time I really began to understand how Mallards used the chuckle was about ten years ago while I was sitting at the small lake near my home feeding geese with my kids; I heard the call and saw a hen mallard feeding with the geese. But, she wasn't feeding she was chasing away a drake mallard. It was quite obvious that the hen was using the chuckle as a form of threat call. I often hear this call in the spring, when two or more drakes are pursuing a hen Mallard in flight.
Although the chuckle is not a feeding call, it does occur in feeding situations, where there are lots of drakes near the hens. In order for the hens to keep from being harassed by single drakes they perform the chuckle (telling other drakes that if they don't stay away they may be attacked by the hen's mate). In order to be able to feed or swim in peace the hens use this call to try to get the drakes to leave them alone. Since ducks often hear the chuckle while they are feeding, or as they approach ducks that are feeding (whether they are on land or water), this call can be used to attract most puddle ducks.
When you use the chuckle to bring in ducks, blow it as it is meant, loud, insistent and aggressive. Do not blow it like a welcome to incoming ducks, or as a pleading call to get other ducks to come down and feed. To imitate the sound of a hen performing this call in flight, cup one or both hands over the end of the call, and rapidly say ticka-ticka-ticka-ticka while you blow into the call. To imitate the sound of a hen performing this call while on land or water I say tuck, tuck-tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck-tuck. I cup both hands over the call, and alternately open the fingers and thumb of the hand that is not holding the call, to create the impression of different sounds coming from different directions.
The hen mallard uses several gagg notes when she is with her mate. When she is not with her mate she will hold her head back on her shoulders and utter several gaeck notes. The hen Black Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler and Widgeon use approximately the same call and pitch as the hen Mallard. The hen Pintail uses a Decrescendo that is not as loud as the hen mallard, with fewer notes; and a softer, more hoarse call, rrrt-rrrt-rrrt. The hen Blue-Winged and Green-Winged Teal use the same call with a higher pitch; the hen Green-winged teal with four notes; the hen Blue -winged Teal uses a one sylable rrrr. The hen Wood Duck uses a high-pitched whistle, wheet-wheet-wheet. The hen Shoveler uses a woh-woh-woh.
Drake Social Contact / Mating Calls The drake mallard Social Contact and Mating call is simply a deeper more reedy version of the social contact call, usually containing two notes; raeb-raeb. I often hear this call when one or more drakes are pursuing a hen in the air during spring mating flights, and in large flocks in the fall. I also hear it when drakes are just resting on water or land. Be careful when you perform this call, a single note raeb is used as an alarm call. It also uses a high pitched Burp, or whistle; peep.
The drake Black Duck uses the same call as the drake Mallard. The drake Gadwall uses a higher pitched series of grunts and whistles; with the raeb-zee-zee-raeb-raeb with the grunt being the raeb and the whistle being the zee. It also uses a Burp, which is a loud, low grunt uttered with the neck extended, often with the bill pointed toward a female. It also uses a Grunt-Whistle, which is a loud whistle followed by a grunt. The drake Pintail uses a high pitched whistle, geee, and a burp performed with an outstretched neck, kwa-kwa. The drake Blue-Winged Teal uses an unusually high-pitched, nasal whistle, tseeel. The drake Green-Winged Teal uses a two-syllable krick'-et and a zee-zee-zeet'.The drakeWigeon use a high pitched whistle. The drake Shoveler uses a gack'-gack-gack-ga-ga, with the last note or two muffled; or a took'a-took'a-took'a.
I hope this helps some of you this fall.
May Yahweh-God bless you and yours,