Hey Kids! In this edition of the Waranga News we are taking a look at collective nouns for animals. We all know which animals move in packs, schools, and herds, but what about a wake, a busyness, or a flamboyance?
Many of these terms were first recorded in the 15th century in publications known as Books of Courtesy – manuals on the various aspects of noble living, designed for young aristocrats.
Terms describing animals and birds have many sources of inspiration. Some are named for the characteristic behaviour of the animals (‘a leap of leopards’, ‘a busyness of ferrets’), or by the use they were put to by humans (‘a burden of mules’). Sometimes they’re given group nouns that describe their young (‘a kindle of kittens’), and others by the way they respond when hunted (‘a rout of wolves’). Here are a few collective nouns.
A Murder of Crows
In the 15th century, crows were considered to be omens of death and messengers from the devil or evil powers.
A Wake of Vultures
For vultures, a wake specifically refers to a group feeding on a carcass. The less morbid terms kettle and committee are reserved for groups that are flying and resting in trees, respectively.
A Walk of Snails
Considering walk is one of the things a snail cannot do, this seems like an unusual choice.
A Parliament of Owls
It’s unclear when this phrase was invented, with examples dating to the late 19th century. But its origin is likely an allusion to Chaucer’s poem “The Parliament of Fowls,” alongside the use of parliament as a collective noun for rooks.
An Ambush of Tigers
Since tigers tend to be solitary creatures, a grouping of them would certainly feel like an ambush.
A Skulk of Foxes
This term likely came about because mother foxes raise their young while burrowed underground.
A Hover of Trout
Since trout tend to swim in groups near the bottom of a lake or river, they likely look like they’re hovering over the bed of the waterway. Alternately, it may come from an old term for an overhanging rock where fish—like trout—can hide.
A Bale of Turtles
Supposedly, a group of turtles who are cosy in their shells would look like a paddock of round or squarish hay bales.
A Charm of Hummingbirds
If just one hummingbird is charming, can you imagine how charming a whole group of them would be?
A Prickle of Porcupines
No explanation needed!
An Unkindness of Ravens
Ravens aren’t exactly friendly birds. They will often gang up on their prey or animals that enter their space. And because of the impression that they are a dark presence, an unkindness of ravens can also be called a conspiracy.
A Mob of Kangaroos
And just like in human mobs, there’s usually a leader (a “boomer,” or adult male) who is only in power for a short while before being challenged and defeated by a rival boomer. Other terms used for Kangaroos include flock and troop.
A Pod of Pelicans
They can also be called a squadron.
A Kaleidescope of Butterflies
Groups of butterflies can also be called flutters.
A Wisdom of Wombats
Wombats have large brains and are incredibly playful, which is often viewed as a sign of intelligence.
A Rout of Wolves
While pack is definitely the betterknown term today, a very old term for wolves is rout.
A Sleuth of Bears
This isn’t a reference to any detective work bears may or may not do—it’s derived from the Old English word for sloth, meaning slow (and sloth itself is sometimes used as a collective noun as well).
A Siege of Herons
When herons pick a new lake or river to rest at, the fish there would certainly feel under siege.
A Flamboyance of Flamingos
Perfect don’t you think?
A Skein of Geese
A skein is used specifically when geese (or other wild birds) are flying, whilst gaggle is the term for grounded or domestic geese.
A Barrel of Monkeys
Not just a game—it’s a real term. Monkeys can also congregate as a carload, troop, or tribe.