Ask a scientist: No foreign quacks
If you put a New Zealand mallard duck and an Austrian mallard duck in a room together, could they understand each other's quacking?
A Stuff reader travelling with family around Europe couldn't help but wonder, and sent in her question as part of our 'Ask a Scientist' series.
Victoria University waterfowl biologist Murray Williams said "absolutely".
It turns out ducks from across the globe speak the same language and have no dialects.
"Dialects are usually very local and it's where birds copy each other because they live in one place all their life and don't move around," Williams said.
"Whereas ducks are much, much more mobile."
When comparing ducks from different countries like New Zealand and Austria, one may hear a slight difference in call using a scientific instrument, but ducks would not notice it.
However, Williams said there was a difference in call between female and male ducks - the females quack and the males don't.
"It's not terribly different to humans. Is it?"
The females quack to attract males, warn against predators and identify other birds flying nearby.
"They only have two or three simple little calls. She has very soft calls that she will give to the ducklings," he said.
"The males have a really soft call which you probably wouldn't hear unless you were very close to the birds."
Ducks also communicate with their feathers and wings, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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