A Parliament of Owls

No this does not refer to a House of sleep-deprived MPs at an all-night Parliament debate!

This is what a group of Owls can be called!


The English language has some wild and wonderful names to describe groups of animals or birds. We use some of these collective nouns occasionally when we talk about a Herd of cattle or a Flock of sheep. In school we often had to fill in the blanks or match the following– a Pride of lions, a School of fish or a Pack of wolves.

I have always been intrigued and fascinated by some of these collective nouns. I think that a Gaggle of Geese sounds just so appropriate, as does an Army of Ants (especially having once been literally attacked and badly bitten a marching regiment of army ants—no joking!).

Here are some delightful feathery ones!

Imagine a Parliament of Owls which includes members from the following: A Murder of Crows, a Convocation of Eagles, a Deceit of Lapwings, a Ballet of Swans, a Siege of Cranes, a Conspiracy of Ravens, a Company of Parrots, a Murmuration of Starlings and a Flamboyance of Flamingos!

And what about our four-legged friends? Here are some quirky ones!

When Noah invited representatives of all animals onto his Ark, he had to select a pair each from: An Ambush of Tigers, an Array of Hedgehogs, a Bloat of Hippos, a Crash of Rhinos, a Rumpus of Baboons, a Shrewdness of Apes, a Singular of Boar, a Skulk of Foxes, a Sleuth of Bears and a Mob of Kangaroos!

Not to mention the hoppers and slitherers from a Colony of Frogs, a Knot of Toads, a Quiver of Cobras, a Bask of Crocodiles, and even a Culture of Bacteria!

These are only a small taste of the numerous terms used to describe groups of different kinds, the history of which can be traced back to the Middle Ages in England. The earliest known collection of terms of collective nouns or ‘venery’ (an archaic term for ‘hunting’) is in the Book of Saint Albans, a kind of handbook for hunters first published in 1486. Included among chapters was a list of the Compaynys of Beestys and Fowlys, where many of the common terms of venery made their first appearances including pride of lions, flock of sheep and herd of deer.

While serious scientists may not be amused at the attribution of human traits to describe the animal world, for the language lovers, discovering new terms can be great fun.

Even more fun is trying to coin one’s own terms! Here are some that I thought of: A Cacophony of Koels, a Preening of Peacocks, a Menace of Mosquitoes, and a Buzzload of Bumblebees!




4 thoughts on “A Parliament of Owls

  1. Haha ..loved the last bit ! Should have read this before our recent trip to Masai Mara,where everyone was trying to get the right word for the hordes of animals we were seeing… the bloat of hippos, a skulk of foxes..not to mention the flamboyance of Flamingos..the list goes on.

    Liked by 1 person

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