Sunday, July 15, 2012

Collective Nouns for Animals, Especially Birds

You can call this a "murder of  crows"
or a "storytelling of crows.
Photo from

Collective nouns for animals have always intrigued me.  This website gives some common collective names for animals, and this one gives some extremely creative (but often little known) collective names for birds. Here are some random observations from the lists.

Otters can be called a raft or a romp.  I particularly like romp because of the way otters love to play.

You can have an ascension of larks or an exaltation of larks.  I wonder why their collective noun sounds like something heavenly.

Both finches and hummingbirds can be called a charm when in a group.  I do find both birds charming, though some may disagree.

Crows can be called a murder or a storytelling.  Perhaps it depends on your perception of these animals.  Starlings are called a murmuration.  Personally, I think murder applies to starlings more.

A destruction of cats is supposed to only be used for wildcats.  But anyone who has seen a domestic cat with a roll of toilet paper would apply it to domestic cats as well.

A lounge of lizards brings forth an image of lizards lying around drinking beer and smoking cigars.

A rhumba of rattlesnakes. Really? (Now I’m always going to be picturing dancing rattlesnakes.  I guess it minimizes the fright factor.)

A building of rooks doesn’t make sense, but somehow it still fits.

When I read “a deceit of lapwings” I had to look it up.  I found that a lapwing is a wading bird of the plover family found nearly everywhere but North America. (No wonder I hadn’t heard of it.) This website says the name comes from the fact that lapwings often present themselves as an easy prey to distract predators from their young. (The website even has a poem about lapwings.)

There's more:  According to this website, a group of ptarmigan is called an invisibleness.  My friend Helen Hegener, a writer who lives in Alaska, says ptarmigan are excellent at camouflage:  "Quite literally invisible when they want to be."  (Click here for more information on Helen's writing.)


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