Scott Rall: Nature's unique names

BY SCOTT RALL The Globe outdoors columnist Google is a wonderful thing. If you have a question with no answer you can just Google that stuff. I was attending a media summit last weekend in Minneapolis that was hosted by the Teddy Roosevelt Conser...


The Globe outdoors columnist

Google is a wonderful thing.  If you have a question with no answer you can just Google that stuff.

I was attending a media summit last weekend in Minneapolis that was hosted by the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership of which I am going to write about in a few weeks, and they had a picture of some pelicans. I was told that a group of pelicans is called a squadron.

I became curious about the names of other groups of birds as well so I Googled that stuff and got some interesting results.  None of the information that follows will make you a better hunter or fisher person, but I kind of got a kick out of it so I thought you might too.


A bunch of crows all in the same places is called a murder of crows or a congress of crows.  With all the political unrest these days, a congress of crows seems pretty appropriate to me.  Birds of prey like hawks and falcons is called a cauldron or a kettle. I had never heard of that one.

Owls, which are also a bird of prey, have their own nickname.  A batch of owls is called a parliament or a wisdom.  All of the owls on TV commercials have glasses so they, too, seem pretty smart.

Our national bird, the bald eagle, when grouped together is referred to as a convocation or congregation. We see lots of great blue herons in southwest Minnesota and when a few of them get together for whatever reason they get together for they are called siege of herons.

We have hummingbirds also in our area and they are called a charm or shimmer of humming birds. The common loon lives in northern Minnesota and when they get together the people in the know call that an asylum of loons.

Stork gatherings are called a mustering. Swans and specifically trumpeter swans that live in the upper Midwest are called or referred to as a wedge or lamentation of swans.

We have seen a big uptick in the number of turkey vultures in southwest Minnesota over the past 10 years.  They love to hang out on the top of the water tower near Centennial Park in Worthington.  When you drive by and see them you can impress your friends by calling them a committee or venue of vultures.

A few birds that do not live around here but have neat call names include flamingos and parrots.  Flamingos when in a group are called a flamboyance and parrots are aptly named a pandemonium of parrots. This kind of sounds like our U.S. Congress too.

I thought a bunch of mallard ducks was called a flock but I have since learned the proper term depends on the number of them.  A small bunch of mallards is called a sword or a flush of mallards.


The term “flock of birds” depends on the number of them and the specie of bird they are.  

Gregarious birds like geese and ducks gather in large numbers regularly.  It takes a large number of them to be considered a flock.  Hummingbirds, on the other hand, do not gather in large numbers in regularity so a gathering with as few as 3-4 hummingbirds would be considered a flock.

Different terms are used for the same birds depending on whether they are on the ground or in flight.  The term used for birds of prey I mentioned earlier is called a caldron or kettle. This term is used when the birds are in flight.  The term is thought to have originated from the birds circling on a heat thermal.  They fly in a large circle and it is thought some human somewhere though that this formation of birds looked like liquid or soup boiling in a pot or kettle. They also thought it looked like steam rising from a teakettle. The origins of all of these terms can be Googled if you have enough curiosity to check it out.

My curiosity of bird terms started from seeing a big bunch of crows on my wildlife ride lase Tuesday night. I was going to watch the sunset over Lake Bella and my sunset app on my phone must have been in a different time zone.  We sat and enjoyed listening to the crickets and watched the clouds of non-biting insects but never made it to sunset because we had a dinner date to get to.

Now is a great time of year to get outside and watch a few sunsets. The temps are better and the snow will be here before you know it.  Take a ride and see if you too can find a yourself a committee of vultures. The Lake Bella area is a great place to start your search.

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