English Collective Nouns for Birds

From some very dear friends:

Barb and I visited the Birds Unlimited Store in North Vancouver to buy a new bird feeder yesterday, and we chatted with the staff about how it annoys our little feathered friends when a murder of crows descends on the feeder. Store staff replied that an unkindness of ravens has the same effect on small wild birds. I just had to check to see if ‘unkindness’ was the proper collective noun for ravens, and, sure enough, it turned out that the term is ‘spurious, unverified or misapprehended’.

Standard English Terms and Terms following the Middle English tradition Collective nouns for Birds

Birds A flock of birds
birds (small) A dissimulation of birds Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
bitterns A siege of bitterns Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
chickens A peep of chickens Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
hens A brood of hens Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
choughs (i.e. jackdaws) A clattering of choughs Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
coots A covert of coots Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
cranes A herd of cranes Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
crows A murder of crows [1][2][3][4][5]
curlews A herd of curlews Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
dotterel A trip of dotterel [6]
doves A dole/dule of doves Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
doves A flight of doves Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
ducks A badling of ducks Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
goldfinches A charm of goldfinches Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
geese A gaggle of geese Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
goshawks A flight of goshawks Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
guinea fowl A rasp of guinea fowl Shot-gun and Sunlight – The Game Birds of East Africa By Lieut.-Colonel B. G. Lynn-Allen Published by Batchworth Press in 1951
hawks A cast of (tame) hawks (=2) Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
hawks A lease of (tame) hawks (=3) Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
herons A siege of herons Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
jackdaws A clattering of jackdaws G. W Lemon English Etymology[7]
jackdaws A train of jackdaws Gilbert White The Natural History of Selborne[8]
lapwings A desert of lapwings Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
larks An exaltation of larks Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
lyrebirds A musket of lyrebirds G. W Lemon English Etymology[9]
magpies A tidings of magpies Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
mallards A sute of mallards Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
mallards A sord of mallards Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
nightingales A watch of nightingales Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
owls A parliament of owls Oxford English Dictionary
partridges A covey of partridges Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
peafowls A muster of peafowl Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
pheasants A nide of pheasants [10]
pheasants A nye of pheasants Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
plovers A congregation of plovers Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
quail A bevy of quail Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
ravens A murder of ravens Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
rooks A building of rooks Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
snipe A walk or wisp of snipe Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
sparrows A host of sparrows Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
starlings A murmuration of starlings Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
swallows A flight of swallows Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
swans A herd of swans Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
swans An eyrar of swans Oxford English Dictionary
teal A spring of teal Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
turtle doves A dole/dule of turtledoves Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
vultures A venue of vultures unknown
vultures (circling) A kettle of vultures [11]
woodcocks A fall of woodcocks Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans
wrens A herd of wrens Juliana Berners Book of St. Albans

Spurious, Unverified and Misapprehended TermsBird Collective noun Source/Origin

birds A volery of birds Originally an aviary, later the birds within[12]
bitterns A sedge of bitterns mistaken for siege
poultry A run of poultry not a collective noun
cranes A sedge of cranes mistaken for siege
curlews A head of curlews mistaken for herd
doves A prettying of doves mistaken for pittying
emus A mob of emus [citation needed]
lapwings A deceit of lapwings misapprehension of desert
partridges A bew of partridges? a mistake for bevy
penguins A rookery of penguins not a collective term
rainbow lorikeets An arnott of rainbow lorikeets [citation needed]
ravens An unkindness of ravens ? Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Issue #40: Convergence 3; pg. 11
rooks A parliament of rooks ? Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Issue #40: Convergence 3; pg. 11
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