There is no single word for a group of birds. Instead, each species has its particular term to describe a group of birds. Let’s look at some of the different phrases used to describe a group of birds!
What Is a Collective Noun?
In English, a collective noun refers to groups of beings or objects. A collective noun refers to a collection of things as a whole. Here are some examples of commonly used collective nouns:
What Are the Most Common Collective Nouns for Birds?
Some collective nouns can be used for any group of birds, such as:
One of the most common collective nouns for birds is ‘flock.’ So it is when a group of birds comes together for safety.
Some animals and birds live in sociable groups called ‘colonies.’ Typically bird colonies will be large nesting sites where birds can raise their young more safely. Colonies of puffins, kittiwakes, and gannets will often nest on steep coastal cliffs to protect themselves and their young from predators.
Some other common collective nouns for birds are:
10 Interesting Collective Nouns for Birds
The collective nouns used to refer to groups of birds often originate from folklore and superstition or help to describe the behavior of different bird species. Please keep reading to learn more about some of our favorite collective bird nouns!
Ravens: An Unkindness of Ravens
A group of ravens is called ‘an unkindness of ravens.’ It is because, during the 19th century, people believed that ravens weren’t the kindest of parents and would often make their chicks leave the nest before they were ready to fledge.
Owls: A Parliament of Owls
According to mythology, owls were thought to be wise creatures. The symbol of Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, is an owl. Other collective nouns to describe owls include ‘a stare’, ‘a study,’ and ‘a wisdom.’
Jackdaws: A Clattering of Jackdaws
Jackdaws are sociable, noisy birds that can be heard chattering and calling to each other in groups.
Crows: A Murder of Crows
Some people believe using the word ‘murder’ is because of crows’ behavior. Crows are omnivorous scavengers who often pick at carrion (dead animals or birds).
Others believe that the murder of crows has historical origins. Crows were often seen on battlefields, in cemeteries, or around gallows. It linked them to the idea of death and gave crows a sinister reputation. Other terms used to describe a group of crows are ‘a mob’ or ‘a hoard.’
Flamingos: A Flamboyance of Flamingos
This term comes from the old French word for ‘flame’ and is used to describe something bright and eye-catching, which is very apt for such a colorful bird! The word ‘flamboyant’ can also be traced back to the Latin word ‘flamma,’ which means ‘fire’ or ‘flame.’
Starlings: A Murmuration of Starlings
A murmuration is when a massive flock of starlings gathers and moves together in the sky. Their movement is so fluid that they look like a liquid mass floating in the air. At least 500 starlings can join these giant flocks and their wings fluttering together make a soft murmuring sound.
Woodpeckers: A Descent of Woodpeckers
This term originates from how woodpeckers catch their food. They drop on insects from excellent heights.
Geese: A Gaggle of Geese
A group of geese is known as a gaggle only when they are on the ground. The word ‘gaggle’ comes from the Dutch word for ‘gagelen,’ which means ‘to cackle.’ It refers to the calls that the geese make to each other. When geese are flying, they are known as a ‘skein’ since their formations look like an old-fashioned skein of wool.
Vultures: A Kettle of Vultures
A group of vultures is known as a ‘kettle’ when circling in the air; they use the warm air currents to rise into the sky and resemble rising bubbles in a boiling kettle. If a group of vultures is seen in a tree or on the ground, they are known as a ‘venue.’
Magpies: A Tiding of Magpies
Magpies have been linked to folklore and superstition. For example, it was believed that the number of magpies seen could bring either good or bad luck (also known as good or bad tidings). In British folklore, seeing one magpie was considered bad luck; people would counteract this by greeting it as ‘Mr. Magpie’ and asking how ‘Mrs. Magpie’ was. There are different versions of a children’s nursery rhyme about magpies, but the most common version is:
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for young,
Six for old,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
Other names for groups of birds include:
- A round of robins
- A trembling of finches
- A swatting flycatchers
- A parcel of linnets
- A cast of merlins
- A quilt of eiders
- A museum of starlings
- A water dance of grebes
- A mural of buntings
- A chime of wrens