Monday, November 28, 2011

Collective Nouns of Birds

I'm sure you've heard someone say they saw a flock of geese, maybe a murder of crows, or even perhaps a raft of ducks. These collective nouns are a way to describe what you saw. Now, what you may not know is that there are many incredibly interesting ways to talk about groups of birds more specific to their family or species. Have you ever heard someone say they saw an aerie of hawks? How about a charm of hummingbirds? An unkindness of ravens? I bet not, but check out this list of collective nouns for different birds from

Crèche of penguins, from
Ascension of larks
Bouquet of pheasants
Company of parrots
Convocation of eagles
Covey of quail
Crèche of penguins
Exaltation of larks
Lamentation of swans
Murmuration of starlings (check out this video called Murmuration)
Muster of Peacocks
Parliament of owls
Party of jays
Siege of cranes
Ubiquity of sparrows
Wedge of geese (flying in a V formation)

Siege of Cranes, from
There are many different ways to say you saw a group of something, so wow your friends with some of these!

My personal favorite collective noun is a parliament of owls. Many owl sightings are very brief and magical, and they usually only involve one or two birds. Last December I was doing a Christmas Bird Count (an annual organized bird count that is done all over the world but mostly in the U.S.) in California. It was beginning to rain and we were seeing very few birds, and ready to head to lunch somewhere warm and dry. The woman I was working with said she had seen three or four Short-eared Owls, Asio flammeus, roosting in the tall grass.

Short-eared Owl in flight. From
On our way back through the field we flushed up an owl. Seeing an owl in the middle of the day was a bizarre experience in itself but watching it fly up out of the grass was even weirder because most owls roost in trees and you only see or hear them at night. Then another one flew up. And another, and another, and another, until we were surrounded by at least 24 Short-eared Owls. Up until that day I had never even seen one. They have very small rounded bodies with long elegant wings that flap very distinctively. I felt as if I were in the company of royalty, blessed by their presence, honored to be a part of it all. These owls are very stately, important, a parliament indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment