What Do You Call a Flock of Birds? | Science | Smithsonian
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What Do You Call a Flock of Birds?

Recently, while perusing the shelves of my bird-crazy colleague Laura, I came across "Winged Wonders: A Celebration of Birds in Human History," by Peter Watkins and Jonathan Stockland. The book is full of examples of how birds can be found in art and language, but what particularly intrigued me was...

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Recently, while perusing the shelves of my bird-crazy colleague Laura, I came across "Winged Wonders: A Celebration of Birds in Human History," by Peter Watkins and Jonathan Stockland. The book is full of examples of how birds can be found in art and language, but what particularly intrigued me was a list, in the introduction, of the various names for groups of specific birds. A selection:





a building of rooks

a desert of lapwings

an exaltation of larks

a head of pheasants

a herd of cranes, curlew or wrens

a kit of pigeons flying together

a murmuration of starlings

a muster of peacocks

a paddling of ducks on the water

a parliament of owls

a piteousness of doves

a richesse of martins

a rookery of penguins

a seige of herons

a tiding of magpies

an unkindness of ravens

a watch of nightingales

a wedge of geese (or of swans in flight)


I love how some of these terms bring up images of, say, owls crowding into a chamber in Westminster or herons taking up arms against a castle. Others elicit thoughts of sound (starlings) or the bad tidings they are supposed to bring (ravens). Which ones are your favorites? Or are there any great ones I missed?
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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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