Chimney Swifts from P. Taverner’s 1921 Edition of Birds of Eastern Canada

10 Birds and what to call their Flocks

T-93 …Day 7 of 100 Days of Blogging

Most people will refer to a group of birds as a flock. Which is fine. Just oh so ordinary! Fall migration is in full swing, so today’s post is all about helping you to look clever as you point out to anyone in earshot the flock of birds that suddenly appeared overhead. Try casually slipping the following collective nouns for birds into your conversations.

#1 Geese

These should come in really handy. Most likely you’ve heard of a gaggle of geese, but did you know they can also be referred to as a “blizzard” a “chevron,” a “knot, a “plump” or a “string” of geese? Me neither, except for plump, but pretty sure that was during Christmas dinner.

#2. Cardinals and Buntings

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll have seen the post about the Bird Family of the Week highlighting the Cardinal and the Indigo Bunting as part of the same family. Well, unlike its Bunting cousin, the Northern Cardinal can go by the collective term of a “college”, a “conclave”, a “deck”, a “radiance” and a “Vatican.” Of course, this stems from the origins of its name referencing the red robes and hats of Cardinals in the Catholic Church. Buntings, on the other hand, may be called a “decoration”, a “mural” or a “sacrifice” of buntings.

#3. Vultures

 The collective terms for vultures are a “cast”, “committee”, a “meal”, a “vortex” and a “wake”. I suspect whoever suggested those terms had a very dark sense of humour or served on one too many committees.

#4. Chickadees

 A “banditry” and a “dissimulation.” Hmm, and I’ve always just said, ‘hey there’s a bunch of chickadees in the yard!’ Who knew? Might be a bit hard to remember these collective nouns but since they don’t migrate you’ll have all winter to practice!

#5. Swifts

Known as a “box”, a “screaming frenzy”, and a “swoop”

Example of use in conversation: Pity about the Chimney Swifts, really. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a swoop in the neighbourhood. You have heard there is a range-wide decline of about 2.5% per year since 1966?

#6. Ducks

From now on, be sure to refer to a bunch of ducks as a “brace”, a “flush”, a “paddling”, a “raft” or a “team.”

#7. Warblers

A “bouquet”, a confusion, a “fall” and a “wrench”. I’m definitely in favour of a “confusion.”

#8. Sandpipers and Sanderlings

A group of Sandpipers can be described as a “bind” a “contradiction”, a “fling” a “hill” and “time-step” of sandpipers. A Sanderling is in the Sandpiper family but a group of them is referred to as a “grain” of Sanderlings.

No guarantees that if you attempt to explain this to the people gathered with you on the shore watching that adorable grain of Sanderlings running back and forth to avoid the surf, that they won’t just walk away and leave you standing there alone. If they do stick around, be sure to mention that Sandpipers are actually long distance migrants and only breed on the High Arctic tundra, but can be found on sandy beaches around the world in winter. If you’re really trying to impress anyone, you can add that the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network lists them as a species of High Concern. (Did you notice how easy it was to slip the word grain into a sentence?)

#9. Pigeons

 A “band”, a “dropping”, a “loft”, a “passel” and a “school.” A “dropping” must have been dreamed up by the guy cleaning the statues in the park.

#10. Gulls

Instead of flock, try using “flotilla”, “gullery”, “screech”, “scavenging”, or a “squabble” of gulls. Maybe not all that imaginative, clearly a reference to the seafaring life. Just included to help you look ever so clever as you sip piña coladas by the pool bar on your next cruise. Or, they might just come in handy on your next trip to Walmart too!