Humans may travel in teams, cozy up into cliques, form a sorority or be members of an old boys’ club, but what do we call gatherings of other living things? You probably know that a group of cattle or deer form a herd, but did you know that a group of cockroaches is called an intrusion? Not too surprising.
You don’t have to think very hard to figure out why some groups of animals got their names. Have you ever seen a pounce of cats or heard a cackle of hyenas? Maybe you’ve have the misfortune to cross through a cloud of grasshoppers or gnats. Hopefully you’ve never been surrounded by a leap of leopards or a skulk of fox.
Did you know that a group of chubby-looking hippos is actually called a bloat? You also can call them hippopotamuses or hippopotami. Either is correct. It’s not surprising that several giraffes gathered in one spot might be called a tower, and it seems fitting that a group of flamingoes is known as a flamboyance.
Some group names seem to reflect the personality of the animals. Lions travel in a pride. Apes, just a step down the evolutionary ladder from us, are called a shrewdness when gathered together. Crows and ravens, which have picked up a bad reputation from movies and literature, don’t have very good group names either. A gathering of crows is called a murder. A bunch of ravens is known as an unkindness.
A group of birds in the air is called a flight while a group on the ground is generically called a flock. Various species have received their own group names over the years. You might see a sedge of bitterns, a chain of bobolinks, a brood of chicks or a gulp of cormorants. Doves gather in a dule and ducks form a brace. Majestic eagles form a convocation while geese gather on the ground in a gaggle. Look for a colony of gulls at the seashore or a cast of hawks in the mountains. You might be tempted to scold a scold of jays when they get together in a party. Rooks form a building, turkeys group together in a rafter and woodpeckers form a descent.
You may have nothing to fear from the congregation at church on Sunday, but if you see a congregation of alligators, you might want to say a prayer. If one shark makes you shake, what would you do around a shiver of sharks? Don’t be tempted to reach out and touch any porcupines. They gather in a prickle.
Frogs, herring and caterpillars travel in an army. Groups of kangaroos are called a troop. Monkeys can gather in a troop, too, but they’re better known by another name. After all, what could be more fun than a barrel of monkeys?
Author Carol Ochs works in the Park Authority Public Information Office. This article first appeared in the ResOURces newsletter.