The correct word for a group of crows (and other animals)

Crows perched on wooden poles by the coast

A crowd, a pile, a group – these are all examples of ‘collective nouns’ (words that describe a collection of similar things). For animals and birds, we might choose the words ‘herd’ or ‘flock’. But what is unusual in English is that there are other collective nouns that specifically refer to one type of creature.

One well-known example is a pride of lions. This term is so common we hardly think about it, but the word ‘pride’ is only used for lion groups. It also sort of describes their behaviour, as they lie there looking proud. Some collective nouns for birds also follow this pattern, such as a squabble of seagulls, an unkindness of ravens or a murder of crows (the last two probably because of the birds’ habit of attacking small animals – but also a gift for writers of horror stories).

Other group names are not so easy to understand. Why is it a pack of wolves, a pod of dolphins or a gaggle of geese?

Sometimes it is linked with what the animals look like. A prickle of hedgehogs makes sense – as does a stand of flamingos. And anyone who has seen the colourful twittering of a charm of goldfinches will know why they have that name.

But overall, there is no clear reason why these very specific words were invented or are still in use. But they are fun and it is satisfying to know them – if only for that rare moment when you can say: “Wow, will you look at that ostentation of peacocks!”

Image: Sandra Standbridge/Dreamstime

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