Words for Birds

A Barrel of Monkeys

As a child, I was intrigued by the interesting collective nouns given to groups of birds or animals—a pride of lions, a swarm of bees, an army of ants. Some names seemed to fit the animal in question and make perfect sense: a stand of flamingos, for instance, or a stench of skunks. But others were more puzzling: Were ravens unkind? Did fish go to school? And although my plastic orange monkeys came out of a barrel, I was pretty sure real monkeys did not. (Only much later did I learn about 19th-century organ-grinders who made music with a barrel-shaped hurdy-gurdy, often accompanied by a street-performing monkey).

Writing on a blank page

As an adult, one of my favorite pastimes is bird-watching. And recently, while writing a short story about birds, I’ve been reminded of a host of collective nouns that are applied to different species of birds—some that make sense, and, again, some that don’t quite match up. A murmuration of starlings, for instance. The beautiful softness of the word belies the raucous noise made by the huge flocks that congregate in our city—I would call them a cacophony of starlings!

Fanny Crosby poet hymnwriter

A Prattle of Parrots

There are many different collective names for groups of birds, and it seems they are not all equally agreed upon, nor universally used. But here are some of my favourites—some that I think truly describe the bird in question:

  • A convocation of eagles
  • A cauldron of crows
  • A gaggle of geese
  • A bevy of quail
  • A parliament of owls
  • A prattle of parrots
  • A clamour of rooks
  • An exaltation of larks
  • A flamboyance of flamingos
  • A shimmer of hummingbirds

A Choice of Words

Choosing the right bird-words has reminded me of the importance of choosing my words carefully in any context. Whether writing a story or blog post, talking to my spouse or children, sharing in my critique group, or putting something out there on social media, my words matter. Do my words build up or tear down? Do my words encourage and affirm? Do I speak gently and thoughtfully, or bluntly and thoughtlessly? The right words make sense in the right situation.

Your words matter. So, as you search for just the right words today —in your writing, speaking, texting, parenting, chatting— be inspired by the birds to get creative, and choose the right words to make a positive difference!


Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips brings satisfaction.

Proverbs 18:20

Starlings at sunset

More Writing Inspiration from Katherine’s Blog


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