Murder Most Fowl

crowsHumans 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.

Fox at Feeder-InstaYou 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.

DSC_0082A 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.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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