What is a group of sparrows called? What is a group of falcons called? What is a group of chickens called? In general, what do you call a group of birds? Before I tell you, here is a quick story from my childhood:
Master: On a bright sunny day, you may see a chime or a host, a band or a raft! You can even see a kettle!
Student: What on Earth are these things? Why are you talking about a raft or a kettle on a bright sunny day?
Yes, that was the gist of the actual conversation that happened between me and my teacher a long time back. The language I used now is more polished than what it was back then. But that was the gist!
I was learning new things every day! And, this is what came to me from my teacher!
Totally surprised, completely unable to comprehend what he was saying, I looked at him perplexed and with blank eye with just one question –
‘You were supposed to teach about birds then why are you speaking ‘nonsense’?’
Well, I didn’t really ask that but, that was the question I had in my mind.
My teacher understood and he said: ‘Son, I am teaching you about birds!’
My reply to him was: ‘Master, there is a kettle and a raft but no bird!’
He smiled and explained to me that those were the distinctive names of groups of specific types of bird species or different species of birds that are closely related!
You get the idea what we are talking about here, right? Yes, we are talking of birds and we are talking of special names that have been assigned to them by us to identify a flock of them.
Generic Names for Group of Birds
Irrespective of what bird species you want to refer to, you can always go ahead and assign some generic name or collective nouns. Those names are:
Yes, you can use any of these terms but not just for birds! They can apply to all animals including humans!
Did you know that the special or unique or distinctive names that the birders use for pointing out specific or similar species of groups of birds actually descriptive?
Yes, those names often reflect the personalities and behaviors of those groups of birds!
So, those distinctive names do have some terms that are now obsolete. Some are very rarely used and then there are some which are outright silly and funny! Irrespective of their status, they do have significance.
When Can You Call a Large Birds’ Group a ‘Flock?’
Just because a few birds have come together, you cannot call them a flock. There are specific conditions that must be fulfilled. These conditions are broadly divided into two categories.
Let us learn about them!
Let us say that there are a large number of birds in one place. These birds are not limited to one species. They are from different species. You can all it a flock. You cannot however assign any specialized term that is used for signifying a single-species flock.
For example, you may see a group of wading birds (these are those birds that walk with their feet in shallow waters and they are usually found in mudflats and coastal habitat shorelines) which may include plovers, flamingos, storks, godwits, herons, etc. You can call them a flock but you cannot assign any specialized term. The problem is that the different species in that group actually belong to different families.
On the other hand, if you have a group of sparrows but the group consists of different species of sparrows, you can still use specialized collective nouns used for sparrows. The reason is that though they belong to different species, they belong to the same family. So, you can call this group as a flock or use specialized names like crew, quarrel, flutter, etc.
Now, let us assume that you see three birds in a place. Can you call it a flock? No, you cannot!
The thing is, you may be naturally inclined to think that there should be a minimum number of birds present in a group to be called as flock. That is not true! There is no such minimum number assigned!
The question is, ‘if there is no minimum number assigned, how can you not call a group of 3 birds a flock?’
Generally speaking, only a large group of birds can be called flock. Smaller groups can be called flocks provided they are not often seen together!
For instance, Grosbeak – seed-eating birds, are not social. They usually never come together in groups. So, if you see a few Grosbeaks together, you can call them a flock because it is very highly unlikely that they will ever form a large group. Same argument applies to hummingbirds as well. They will most likely never form a large group. So, a few hummingbirds together can be called a flock.
On the other hand, ducks, gulls, etc. are usually seen in large groups. These groups are usually very large. So, if you see just a few of them (like 3 or 4 birds), you cannot call them a flock because they are more likely to form way larger groups.
Now it is time to look at the specialized group names. Let’s start then!
Okay, now that you know what a group of birds of a specific species is called, tell me what else do you want to know in similar lines as this one. I and of course all the authors on this blog, intend to do a follow up article on names used for different groups of animals such as, a group of lions or a group hyenas, a group of monkeys, etc. If you have something else in mind that you want us to post in priority, you can always go ahead and request the same.