what group of birds is called a murder

We celebrate our favourite collective nouns for birds, from the weird and the wonderful to the most curious.

Variously idiosyncratic, intriguing and often unerringly apt in their descriptions of gatherings of birds, animals and people a damning of jurors, an incredulity of cuckolds — most of the collective nouns we use date back to the mid 15th century.

A babble of words

The English language was expanding rapidly at the same time, and literate classes outside of the nobility began to adopt the practice of collectively naming hunting animals. A drove of donkeys, a knot of toads, and the cunning of apes are just a few of the hundreds of new terms of veneration that emerged over the course of the following century as a result of this practice.

The creation of these new descriptions required a great deal of wit and creativity, and several semantic devices were employed, including onomatopoeias (a gaggle of geese), characteristics (a spring of teal), and appearance (a parliament of owls). Sometimes inaccurate transcriptions resulted in distorted forms, such as a school of fish (from shoal) or a siege of herons (similar to bitterns, herons are found among the sedges and reeds of wetlands).

The Egerton Manuscript and The Book of St. Many of the terms that are still in use today, like “a murder of crows,” “a pride of lions,” and “a charm of goldfinches,” are listed in the Albans, both of which date from the mid-1400s. Remarkably, while goldfinches are certainly endearing avians, the term “charm” in this context comes from the Old French word meaning “song.”

Creating collective nouns is still enjoyable; two examples from today’s culture are “a book of Mormons” and “a bunch of bankers.”

The most plausible explanation for the murder of crows is that their behavior and perceived qualities led to the crows’ collective noun.

As scavengers, crows will consume carrion in addition to scavenging small animals like lambs, eggs, and young birds. In the past, corvids such as crows were often observed in the vicinity of battlegrounds, medieval medical facilities, graveyards, or hangings, eager to feast on the corpses. Crows and other corvids became the subject of superstitions and folklore as a result of this association with death.

An anecdote claims that crows establish legislatures or tribunals to adjudicate and penalize misbehavior by flock members. Should the verdict be rendered against the defendant, the remaining birds in the flock will kill it. Crows will sometimes kill a weak or dying crow that has invaded their territory, so there’s probably some truth to this tale. However, there is no proof that crows regularly execute members of their own species.

Murder Of Crows There are other collective nouns for crows including a horde, a hover, a mob, a parcel, a parliament, and a storytelling.

A group of owls is also referred to as a parliament. Owls have long been associated with wisdom, going all the way back to Ancient Greece, when the goddess Athena was frequently spotted with an owl. There are a few theories as to why people consider owls to be wise, but their ability to see at night and their wide-eyed, contemplative gaze are most likely the causes.

Because of the folktale mentioned above, crows most likely acquired the collective noun parliament. Given that crows are known to be reasonably intelligent birds, it’s possible that a medieval linguist was aware of this characteristic as well.

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what group of birds is called a murder

  • A wisp of snipe
  • A kettle of swallows
  • An invisibleness of ptarmigans
  • A committee of terns
  • A descent of woodpeckers
  • A pitying of turtledoves
  • A banditry of titmice
  • A circlage of house martins
  • A scold of jays
  • A charm of goldfinches
  • A fall of woodcock
  • A deceit of lapwings

How birds got their strange collective nouns

Unlike proverbs, rhymes, or homilies, many of these words have survived because they were recorded and published in Books of Courtesy handbooks intended to educate the nobility, as author Chloe Rhodes explains in An Unkindness of Ravens: A Book of Collective Nouns. “They were established and maintained to distinguish the aristocracy from the less refined masses,” the author states.

Most collective bird nouns do not always have as simple an origin as they might seem.

Some are named after odd behaviors, like “a descent of woodpeckers,” which may refer to their propensity to fall from great heights on ants, or attributes, like “a bellowing of bullfinches,” which may refer to the birds’ unusually thick necks or “a spring of teal,” which may refer to a personality trait that we think they have.

For example, the abundance of ominous-sounding nouns for crows, like murder, mob, and horde, most likely originates from medieval peasants’ fears that the eerie-looking corvids were either witches in disguise or had been sent by the Devil.

In a similar vein, the notion that ravens are “an unkindness of ravens” may have originated from the false impression that these birds were not the most nurturing parents, occasionally driving their young out of their nests to fend for themselves before they were ready.

Regarding a starling murmuration, this is simply an ongoing background murmur, similar to what happens when 10,000 pairs of wings beat simultaneously.


What group of birds is called an omen?

In the 15th century, crows were considered to be omens of death and messengers from the devil or evil powers.

What is a group of sparrows called?

A group of sparrows is called a host. A group of men named James is called late-night hosts.

What group of birds is called a conspiracy?

Collective nouns for birds: Why we call it a murder of crows, murmuration of starlings and a conspiracy of ravens.

What is a flock of owls called?

A group of owls is most commonly called a parliament, less commonly a congress, stare, or hooting, all of which are related to owls’ characteristics. Speaking historically, most collective nouns for animals and birds can be traced back to Books of Courtesy in the Middle Ages.