20 January 2016

Collective Nouns for Birds

You know about a herd of deer and a pack of dogs or coyotes, but what about a herd of cranes?

A list of English terms of venery (an archaic word for hunting) came about in the Late Middle Ages and these included somewhat whimsical collective names for animals.

One source of these terms was the Book of Saint Albans (or Boke of Seynt Albans), a 1486 book, a compilation of matters relating to the interests of the time of a gentleman. It was the last of eight books printed by the St Albans Press in England, and it is also known by the more accurate name, The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms. It contains three essays, on hawking, hunting, and heraldry.

Although originally considered whimsical and humorous, many of these terms for have become part of the modern-day lexicon and some common collective terms (such as herd and flock) for some animals.

Many of the collective nouns for birds are the most poetic.
  • gulp of cormorants
  • covert of coots 
  • murder of crows
  • cast, cauldron, or kettle of birds of prey, such as hawks and falcons
  • chain of bobolinks
  • wake of buzzards
  • banditry of chickadees
  • convocation, congregation of eagles
  • charm of finches
  • glittering, shimmer, tune, bouquet, hover of hummingbirds
  • party, scold of jays
  • bevy, exaltation, ascension of larks

Black Buzzards 4
a wake of buzzards

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