Unusual Crowds of Birds

Crows in winter (photo by Oliver via Flickr Creative Commons license)

24 November 2021

People form crowds, cattle are in herds, dogs in a pack, whales in a pod and birds in flocks. But we have special group names for some species. For instance, a flock of crows is a murder, a flock of starlings is a murmuration.

Here are five unusual crowd names for birds, as listed at The Spruce.

A college of cardinals: Northern cardinals, which are red, were named for Roman Catholic cardinals whose vestments are red. The Church’s body of cardinals is called the College of Cardinals. Fall and winter are the only times when you’ll see a college of northern cardinals. They don’t flock in the breeding season.

A ‘college’ of cardinals in Oklahoma, Feb 2015 (photo from justabirdthing via Flickr Creative Commons license)

A flamboyance of flamingos: Of course.

A flamboyance of American flamingos (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

A charm of goldfinches: This group name originated in England where the native European goldfinch has a (charming) red face.

A charm of goldfinches on teasel (photo by Natural England via Flickr Creative Commons license)

A palette of painted buntings: Flocks of painted buntings are hard to find, but even a lone male is a palette of color.

Male painted bunting in Freeport, TX(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

A committee of vultures: This committee is distracted as a latecomer joins them.

A committee of turkey vultures in Pennsylvania (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Vulture committees have a long and colorful history which continues to this day. I am reminded of Lewis Nordan’s 2003 book, Wolf Whistle, set in 1955 Mississippi where vultures are “buzzards,” described and quoted in this Amazon review:

Ancient buzzards named after Southern politicians take up daily residence on a telephone wire above Arrow Catcher’s main street. “The buzzards were named Vardaman and Bilbo and Hugh White and J.P. Coleman and Ross Barnett and other names of past and future governors and senators of the sovereign state of Mississippi.”

The committee pictured above is in Pennsylvania.

p.s. See more flock names at The Spruce.

(photos via Flickr and Wikimedia Creative Commons licenses. Click on the captions to see the originals)

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