January 11, 2005
2005 Adventure Calendar
Winter's Best National Parks
Hiking in Patagonia
Accessories for Winter Warmth
ANWR: Back in the Spotlight
from Outside Online
What Are Groups of Birds Called?
If fish"school," and there are gaggles of geese, what is the less familiar word for a "flock" of crows or ravens?
With all this talk about Vs and flocks and flights, it's a good idea to really polish our nomenclature for birds in groups. Stephen is a GORP reader who lives in Maine, where he often sees crows and ravens. “If fish 'school,' and there are gaggles of geese,” Stephen asks, “what is the less familiar word for a flock of crows or ravens?”
Sam Fried has seen and photographed almost all North American birds.
Lemme tell ya, Stephen, you don't know how weird it gets.
It's acceptable to call a flock of ravens or crows a “flight” if they're in the air. You might also call them a “skein,” though this term is applied most often to geese and other waterfowl. You definitely don't want to call them a “muster,” since this is reserved only for a group of peacocks. You might consider calling them a “wisp.” This term can appropriately be applied to any flock of birds, though it is most often used in connection with snipe. Hmmm. Somehow the idea of saying"Hey, there's a wisp of ravens" doesn't quite cut it.
Now we're running into more and more specific terms. There's “covey,” of course, used most frequently for upland birds such as grouse, quail, partridge. And there's one of my favorites, “bevy,” which I use for most everything: a bevy of elk, a bevy of snakes, a bevy of bad jokes, etc. In strict ornithological parlance, “bevy” denotes a flock of quail or larks. Nonetheless, a bevy of crows or ravens sounds pretty good to me.
By no means are you allowed to use the terms “fall” or “watch.” The first term is applied only to a family group of American woodcock. The second term is applied only to a flock of nightingales.
Perhaps it's time we started making up some new terms of our own. How could we not fail to improve upon, or at least equal, the nomenclature of old? How about it?
I'll get things started. Here is the new, official term for a flock of English house sparrows: a “blight.”