Talk like birding royalty: A squabble of Gulls and a bowl of Spoonbills

by Beverly Mills Gyllenhaal
2 comments

What could be more delightful than a herd of cowbirds, a flotilla of frigatebirds or a pandemonium of parrots?

A bowl of spoonbills, perhaps.

A Spoonbill about to join a bowl

One of my favorite of Anders’ photos is of a gangly Roseate Spoonbill coming in for a landing to join six others. So when I came across the fact that a group of spoonbills is called a bowl, the image was just so striking it made me laugh.

And of course it made me curious.

Turns out that our medieval ancestors dreamed up tons of terms for flocks of specific birds. There’s a “wisdom” of owls, a “mewing” of catbirds and a “slurp” of sapsuckers.

Is it a 1) squabble, 2) wedge or 3) a scoop of Skimmers? See the list below.

The lucky ducks get several monikers: a “safe,” a “raft” or a “paddling” while on land — or a “team” in flight.

Hummingbirds can be collectively called a charm, a glittering, a shimmer, a tune, a bouquet or a hover.

In 1486 Dame Juliana Barnes of England listed these “proper terms” in “The Book of St Alban.”  They were included in handbooks to educate the English nobility — a way to distinguish the aristocracy from the less well bred.

Is it a 1) pod, 2) a party, or a 3) posse of Pelicans. Keep reading for answers.

Fast forward to 2001 and “An Unkindness of Ravens: A Book of Collective Nouns” by Chloe Rhodes. She says flocks tended to be named for peculiar habits, physical characteristics or a personality trait that people believed the birds to possess: A flamboyance of flamingos, a coronation of kingbirds, a constellation of starlings, a murder of crows.

Is it a 1) charm, 2) a wake, or a 3) a flotilla of Frigatebirds? That’s just to see if you remember the mention at the top of this post.

Here’s a list of my other favorite names for flocks. But with a simple Google search, you can find tons more. Or check out this article in the UK magazine “Country Life” for a really great list.

Finches:  charm or trembling

Bobolinks: chain

Jays:  scold or party

Skimmers:  scoop

Is it 1) a host, 2) a party, or 3) a wedge of geese? Glance to the left.

Plovers:  congregation

Cardinals:  Vatican or conclave

Vultures:  wake

Gulls:  a squabble or scavenging

Cormorants:  flight, gulp, sunning or swim

Geese (or any

Is it 1) a wake, 2) a wedge or 3) a gobble of turkeys? Not too hard to guess. Check the list on the left.

flock flying in a V):  wedge

Warblers: a confusion, wrench or fall

Nightingales:  a watch

Pelicans:  pod

Woodpeckers: a drumming

Is it a 1) realm, 2) a charm, or 3) a watch of Kingfishers? See the last one on the list.

Sparrows:  host or quarrel

Chickadees:  banditry

Turkeys:  rafter, gobble, gang, posse

Turtledoves:  a pitying

Kingfishers:  realm

 

 

 

   

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2 comments

Patricia Markert January 12, 2019 - 8:46 pm

I love a murmuration of starlings: video.nationalgeographic.com/video/short-film-showcase/00000158-457d-d0be-a1dc-4f7f8e650000

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lizagyllenhaal January 12, 2019 - 4:32 pm

A wonderfully engaging and informative posting, Bev. Thank you!

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