Nature Ramble

This week, we’re doing something different, instead of rambling through nature, we’re going for a ramble through vocabulary.

English is a strange language sometimes, you may know some of these, I would wager that there are some new ones.

99 strange collective animal names

Whether it’s a shrewdness of apes, a pandemonium of parrots or a zeal of zebras, lots of animals have bizarre, little-known names when they cluster into crowds.

Clockwise from top left: A skulk of foxes, a parliament of owls, a shiver of sharks and a pandemonium of parrots. (Photos: Kelly Azar, U.S. National Park Service, Chris Williamson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

From social butterflies to solitary scavengers, virtually all animals gather into groups at some point in their lives. Herd immunity is one reason, since packs of prey are harder to attack, but many animals also use collective wisdom to make better decisions. Some even blur the line between individual and group, while others limit social time to mating season.
Regardless of what draws them together, something odd tends to happen when creatures form crowds: They’re suddenly known by bizarre, often silly names. These group nouns are rarely used, even by scientists, but they nonetheless represent our own species’ collective creativity for linguistics — not to mention our deep-rooted affinity for nature.
Taking the time to name a “richness of martens” or a “murmuration of starlings,” for example, suggests a basic lack of contempt for the wildlife in question. Even our more derogatory labels, like an “obstinancy of buffalo” or an “unkindness of ravens,” reveal a certain respect for the nonhuman neighbors that share our environment.
Without further ado, here are 99 of the strangest collective names we’ve given to animals:
Mammals and marsupials

A conspiracy of lemurs (Photo: Chris Gin/Flickr)

  • Apes: a shrewdness
  • Badgers: a cete
  • Bats: a cauldron
  • Bears: a sloth or sleuth
  • Buffalo: a gang or obstinacy
  • Cats: a clowder, pounce or glaring; for kittens: a kindle, litter or intrigue
  • Dogs: a litter (puppies), pack (wild) or cowardice (curs)
  • Donkeys: a pace
  • Elephants: a parade
  • Elk: a gang
  • Ferrets: a business
  • Fox: a leash, skulk or earth
  • Giraffes: a tower
  • Goats: a tribe or trip
  • Gorillas: a band
  • Hippopotamuses: a bloat or thunder
  • Hyenas: a cackle
  • Jaguars: a shadow
  • Kangaroos: a troop or mob
  • Lemurs: a conspiracy
  • Leopards: a leap
  • Lions: a pride or sawt
  • Martens: a richness
  • Moles: a labor
  • Monkeys: a troop or barrel
  • Mules: a pack, span or barren
  • Otters: a romp
  • Pigs: a drift, drove, sounder, team or passel
  • Porcupines: a prickle
  • Porpoises: a pod, school, herd or turmoil
  • Rabbits: a colony, warren, nest, down, husk or herd (domestic only)
  • Rhinoceroses: a crash
  • Squirrels: a dray or scurry
  • Tigers: an ambush or streak
  • Whales: a pod, gam or herd
  • Wolves: a pack, rout or route (when in movement)
Birds

An ostentation of peacocks (Photo: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Bitterns: a sedge
  • Buzzards: a wake
  • Bobolinks: a chain
  • Coots: a cover
  • Cormorants: a gulp
  • Crows: a murder or horde
  • Dotterel: a trip
  • Doves: a dule or pitying (specific to turtle doves)
  • Ducks: a brace, team, flock (in flight), raft (on water), paddling or badling
  • Eagles: a convocation
  • Finches: a charm
  • Flamingos: a stand
  • Geese: a flock, gaggle (on the ground) or skein (in flight)
  • Grouse: a pack (in late season)
  • Hawks: a cast, kettle (in flight) or boil (two or more spiraling in air)
  • Herons: a sedge or siege
  • Jays: a party or scold
  • Lapwings: a deceit
  • Larks: an exaltation
  • Mallards: a sord (in flight) or brace
  • Magpies: a tiding, gulp, murder or charm
  • Nightingales: a watch
  • Owls: a parliament
  • Parrots: a pandemonium or company
  • Partridge: a covey
  • Peacocks: an ostentation or muster
  • Penguins: a colony, muster, parcel or rookery
  • Pheasant: a nest, nide (a brood), nye or bouquet
  • Plovers: a congregation or wing (in flight)
  • Ptarmigans: a covey
  • Rooks: a building
  • Quail: a bevy or covey
  • Ravens: an unkindness
  • Snipe: a walk or wisp
  • Sparrows: a host
  • Starlings: a murmuration
  • Storks: a mustering
  • Swans: a bevy, game or wedge (in flight)
  • Teal: a spring
  • Turkeys: a rafter or gang
  • Woodcocks: a fall
  • Woodpeckers: a descent
Reptiles and amphibians

A maelstrom of salamanders (Photo: Bruce Delgado/U.S. Bureau of Land Management)

  • Cobras: a quiver
  • Crocodiles: a bask
  • Frogs: an army
  • Toads: a knot
  • Turtles: a bale or nest
  • Salamanders: a maelstrom
  • Snakes, vipers: a nest

Fish

A hover of trout (Photo: NCTC/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

  • Fish in general: a draft, nest, run, school or shoal
  • Herring: an army
  • Sharks: a shiver
  • Trout: a hover

Invertebrates

A fluther of jellyfish (Photo: Michael Dawson/National Science Foundation)

 

  • Bees: a grist, hive or swarm
  • Caterpillars: an army
  • Clams: a bed
  • Crabs: a consortium
  • Cockroaches: an intrusion
  • Flies: a business
  • Grasshoppers: a cloud
  • Jellyfish: a bloom, fluther or smack
  • Lobsters: a risk
  • Oysters: a bed
  • Snails: a hood
  • Squid: an audience

Read some more interesting stuff: Related animal-group stories on MNN:

 

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