Quirks & Quarks

Why do Canada geese honk while migrating?

Geese honk when they fly as a way of keeping the flock together by communicating position shifts within their V-formation

Geese honk when they fly as a way of keeping the flock together

Geese spend the energy to honk as they fly in order to maintain the integrity of the flock. (AFP/Getty Images)
Listen1:59

This week's question comes to us from Michael Doran in Peterborough, Ontario. He asks:

Why do geese expend the energy to honk when they fly? It must cost them dearly to make all that sound when that energy could be more productively used to maintain their flight?

Shoshanah Jacobs, an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph, says geese are generally noisier in flight than they are on land.

Researchers think that the honking sound geese make as they fly is used to help maintain the integrity of the flock, and to co-ordinate position shifts with the V-formation in which they fly. 

But for geese, honking one's position is a trade-off that helps helps save energy for the flock as they fly. That is because the V-formation makes flight less energetically costly for the entire flock.   

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