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Flock Names of Birds: An In-depth Journey into Avian Terminology


Flock Names of Birds

Explore the fascinating world of flock names of Birds and their origins. Understand how these unique terms enhance our language, reflect avian behaviors, influence culture, and play a role in bird conservation efforts. Discover the impact of flock names on birdwatching, research, and pop culture.

Understanding Flock Behavior

Bird flock behavior is the phenomenon of birds moving together in large groups, often in complex and coordinated patterns. Scientists have studied this behavior using mathematical models, computer simulations, and high-speed cameras. They have found that bird flocking is an emergent behavior that arises from simple rules followed by each bird.

These rules are:

  • Separation: avoid crowding nearby birds
  • Alignment: steer toward the average direction of nearby birds
  • Cohesion: steer toward the average position of nearby birds

Following these rules, birds can benefit from increased foraging efficiency, protection from predators, and social interactions. Bird flocking is also influenced by the environment, such as food availability, threats, and the field of vision of the birds. Bird species may have different flocking behaviors depending on their morphology, ecology, and evolution.

Etymology of Flock Names: A Historical Perspective

The English language has a long and storied history of assigning vivid, poetic names to groups of birds. Many of these ‘terms of venery’ originated in the late Middle Ages, particularly in “The Book of Saint Albans,” published in 1486, also known as “The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry.” It was here that many flock names we still use today were first recorded, making them some of the oldest vernacular terms in the English language.

Birds are among Earth’s most diverse and fascinating animals, and their collective names reflect this richness of language and culture. Some of these names date back to medieval times when hunters and naturalists observed the behavior and appearance of different bird groups and gave them descriptive or poetic terms.

For example, a group of crows is called a murder, a term that may have originated from the association of these birds with death and misfortune. A group of owls is called a parliament, a time that their wise and solemn demeanor may have inspired. A group of swans is called a ballet, a term that may have been influenced by their graceful and elegant movements on the water.

Other bird flock names are more recent and reflect modern birdwatchers’ scientific knowledge or whimsical imagination. For example, a group of flamingos is called a flamboyance, a term that captures their bright and colorful plumage.

A group of hummingbirds is called a charm, a term that conveys their beauty and delicacy. A group of penguins is called a tuxedo, which humorously refers to their black-and-white appearance.

The etymology of bird flock names is a fascinating topic that reveals the history and diversity of human language and culture. Learning these names allows us to appreciate different bird species’ unique characteristics and behaviors and enrich our vocabulary and imagination.

Flock Names of Songbirds

Songbirds are birds that produce musical sounds with their vocal organs. They belong to the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Songbirds can form flocks for various reasons, such as finding food, avoiding predators, or migrating.

Different songbirds have different names for their flocks, depending on their behavior and characteristics. Here are some examples of flock names of songbirds:

  • Finches: Finches are small to medium-sized birds with conical bills and notched tails. They feed on seeds, fruits, and insects. Finches can form **large and cohesive flocks** that fly in oval shapes. Some flock names for finches are **a charm**, **a trembling**, or **a trimming** of finches.
  • Blackbirds: Blackbirds are medium-sized birds with dark plumage and often yellow or red markings. They feed on seeds, fruits, insects, and worms. Blackbirds can form **huge and noisy flocks** that fly in synchronized patterns. Some flock names for blackbirds are **a cloud**, **a grackle**, or **a merle** of blackbirds.
  • Waxwings: Waxwings are medium-sized birds with soft plumage and colorful wax-like tips on their wing feathers. They feed on berries, fruits, and insects. Waxwings can form **tight and cohesive flocks** that fly in smooth formations. Some flock names for waxwings are **a museum**, **an earful**, or **a silky** of waxwings.

Flock Names of Waterfowl

Waterfowl is a term that refers to birds that live in or near water, such as ducks, geese, swans, and others. Depending on their species, location, and activity, these birds have different names for their groups.

Here are some examples of flock names for waterfowl:

  • A group of ducks on water can be called a paddling, a raft, or a plump. A group of ducks on land can be called a waddling, a badling, or a bunch. A group of ducks in flight can be called a skein, a team, or a flock.
  • A group of geese on the water can be called a plump or a knob. A group of geese on land can be called a gaggle or a herd. A group of geese in flight can be called a skein, a team, or a wedge.
  • A group of swans on the water can be called a bevy or a bank. A group of swans on land can be called a herd or a whiteness. A group of swans in flight can be called a wedge or a flight.

Some flock names are specific to certain species of waterfowl.

For example:

  • A group of mallards is called a sord or a sore.
  • A group of pintails is called a sprig or a doading.
  • A group of wigeons is called a coil or a bunch.
  • A group of teals is called a spring or a diving.
  • A group of shelducks is called a knob or a dopping.
  • A group of eiders is called a raft or a herd.
  • A group of mergansers is called a fishery or a merganserie.
  • A group of coots is called a covert or a raft.
  • A group of moorhens is called a plump or a sedge.
  • A group of grebes is called a water dance or a pod.

Some flock names are based on the behavior or appearance of the waterfowl.

For example:

  • A group of ducks that dive underwater is called a dopping.
  • A group of ducks that feed together is called a flush.
  • A group of ducks that are hunted is called a game.
  • A group of geese that fly in an irregular formation is called an Uies (pronounced “wees”).
  • A group of geese that fly in an orderly formation is called a Nide (pronounced “neede”).
  • A group of swans that are young and not yet mated is called a cobbler’s knot.

These are some of the many flock names for waterfowl that exist in the English language. Some are more common than others, and some vary by region or dialect. Birdwatchers, hunters, and nature enthusiasts often use them to describe the groups of waterfowl they observe.

Flock Names of Birds of Prey

Birds of prey are carnivorous birds that hunt and feed on other animals. They have keen eyesight, powerful talons, and sharp beaks. Some examples of birds of prey are eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and vultures. These birds often live and hunt in groups with different names depending on the species.

Here are some common flock names of birds of prey:

  • A group of eagles is called a convocation or an aerie.
  • A group of hawks is called a cast, a kettle, or a boil.
  • A group of falcons is called a bazaar, a tower, or a stoop.
  • A group of owls is called a parliament, a wisdom, or a stare.
  • A group of vultures is called a wake, a committee, or a venue.

These flock names reflect the characteristics and behaviors of the birds, such as their nesting habits, hunting strategies, and social interactions. Knowing these flock names can help us appreciate the diversity and beauty of these fantastic animals.

Flock Names of Gamebirds

Game birds are hunted in the wild or raised in captivity for food or sport.

Some examples of game birds are quail, grouse, ptarmigan, pheasants, partridges, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Different game birds have other names for their flocks or groups.

For instance, a flock of quail is called a covey, a flock of grouse is called a pack, and a flock of ptarmigan is called a bevy. A flock of geese can be called a skein, a wedge, a gaggle, or a plump, depending on how they fly. A flock of herons is called a siege, a sedge, or a scattering.

Some game birds have unique names for their flocks that reflect their behavior or personality. For example, a flock of goldfinches is called a charm, a treasury, a vein, a rush, or a trembling. A flock of gulls is called a colony, a squabble, a flotilla, a scavenging, or a gullery.

Flock Names of Sea Birds

Seabirds such as gulls, terns, auks, and albatrosses live in or near the ocean. They have different adaptations to survive in the marine environment, such as waterproof feathers, salt glands, webbed feet, and long wings. Seabirds also have other names for their flocks, depending on the species and the behavior. Here are some examples of flock names of seabirds:

  • A group of gulls is called a colony, a screech, or a squabble.
  • A group of terns is called a ternery, a U-tern, or a kettle.
  • A group of auks is called a raft, a loomery, or a waddle.
  • A group of albatrosses is called a rookery, a gam, or a soar.

These names can help birdwatchers identify and describe the seabirds they see. Seabirds are fascinating creatures that play an essential role in the marine ecosystem. They are also indicators of the health of the ocean and the climate. We can appreciate and protect them better by learning more about seabirds and their flocks.

FAQs about Flock Names of Birds

1. Why is a group of crows called a ‘murder’?

The term ‘murder of crows’ comes from folklore and superstitions, where crows were often associated with death and considered omens of bad luck.

2. Are all bird groups called ‘flocks’?

While ‘flock’ is a general term used for a group of birds, many species have unique collective nouns that capture their behavior, characteristics, or historical associations.

3. Why are groups of geese called different names based on their location?

A group of geese is called a ‘gaggle’ when they’re on the ground or in water. In flight, however, they are called a ‘skein,’ ‘team,’ or ‘wedge,’ depending on their formation. These different names reflect their behavior in other circumstances.

4. What’s an ‘exaltation of larks’?

This poetic term refers to the uplifting song of the lark or perhaps their behavior of soaring high during courtship flights or territorial displays.

5. Are there different names for a single species in different behaviors?

Yes. For instance, a group of starlings is called a ‘murmuration’ when they engage in coordinated aerial maneuvers.

6. Why are peacocks called an ‘ostentation’?

The ‘ostentation’ comes from the Latin ‘ostentare,’ meaning to display. A group of peacocks is called an ‘ostentation’ reflecting their showy and extravagant plumage displays.

7. What’s the origin of most flock names?

Many flock names dated back to the Middle Ages and were first recorded in “The Book of Saint Albans,” published in 1486. However, some have more recent origins and have been coined by birdwatchers or through widespread usage.

8. Do these unique names serve any scientific purpose?

While most of these names may not serve a direct scientific purpose, they often reflect unique behaviors or characteristics of different bird species, providing insights into their natural history.

9. Are there any rules for creating new flock names?

There are no specific rules for creating new flock names. However, they often try to capture some essence of the bird’s behavior, appearance, or cultural significance.

10. Is there a ‘correct’ or ‘official’ list of flock names?

There is no universally agreed-upon list of ‘official’ flock names. However, many traditional terms are widely accepted and used, and new words are continually being added through widespread usage and linguistic creativity.


In conclusion, bird flock names are a window into the avian world and our language, culture, and history. They add color to our vocabulary, spark our imagination, and deepen our appreciation for nature.

Whether you’re an ornithologist, a birdwatcher, or a language enthusiast, the world of bird flock names has something to offer everyone. Happy birding!

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