what is a large group of crows called

what is a large group of crows called

In a traditional episode of The Simpsons, Homer destroys Marge’s backyard scarecrow and inadvertently turns into chief to the native crows. Marge is hesitant to share her mattress with a “gang of crows,” and Homer gently rebukes her, “It’s a homicide. A gaggle of crows is known as a homicide.”

That obtained me questioning: Why doesn’t Marge simply go away Homer already? It wasn’t a number of episodes again that she discovered Homer by no means informed her about his Vegas spouse. How is turning into god-emperor to a homicide of crows not grounds for categorical divorce?

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Then once more, some questions might be perpetually insoluble, so I turned my consideration to one thing extra manageable. Why precisely is it a homicide of crows? I do know English has a passion for giving animals fanciful group names, particularly birds. A parliament of owls, a allure of finches, a lamentation of swans, the record goes on and on. However why are crows caught with such a mean-spirited moniker, whereas ravens — a a lot bigger member of the Corvidae household — dwell with the a lot much less extreme “unkindness of ravens”? For that matter, why the flamboyant group names within the first place?

The reply, I found, lies by way of venery. No, notthat venery. At the least, I hope not, however be ready for this to get actual bizarre, actual quick.

Why is it called a murder of crows? NEW DELHI, INDIA – SEPTEMBER 28: A black crow seen consuming road snack product of puffed rice outdoors India Gate, on September 28, 2018 in New Delhi, India. (Photograph by Biplov Bhuyan/Hindustan Instances through Getty Photos)

Phrases of, ahem, venery

Phrases of venery are particular forms of collective nouns that denote teams of animals. The phrase venery entered English within the early 14th century via the Medieval Latin venaria, which implies “beasts of the chase, recreation.” Though archaic by in the present day’s requirements, venery can nonetheless be used to imply “the observe of searching.”

Should you’re curious, the phrase’s modern utilization — that’s, “indulgence of sexual pleasures” — entered English within the mid-Fifteenth century via the Medieval Latin veneria, or “sexual activity.” Possible these two grew to become homonyms as a play on phrases. The game of searching being in comparison with attempting to find a mate. Intelligent, no?1

This historical past is why phrases of venery sound like verbal filigree. They weren’t coined by scientists making a approach to catalogue species, however by Fifteenth-century English gents who had been displaying off their wit.2 When these Englishmen went searching, they’d devise names for animal teams based mostly on their poetic interpretation of nature. A few of these phrases had been intelligent (a allure of hummingbirds), some apparent (a paddling of geese), and others simply pretentious (an ostentation of peacocks, actually?).

Nor was the development restricted to birds. Phrases of venery gave us congregations of alligators, armies of caterpillars, cauldrons of bats, and sloths of bears.

These kennings finally discovered their approach into books — comparable to within the Fifteenth century The Boke of Saint Albans, a treaties on hawking, searching, and heraldry — the place they had been picked up by the literate class. As time went on, they gained an air authority and advanced from playful use of language (re: ye olde slang) to technical phrases utilized by sticklers to point out off.

Why is it called a murder of crows?

A European collared dove — teams of doves are known as a ‘piteousness’ due to their prevalence within the Previous Testomony of the Bible

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Wikimedia Commons

However why a homicide?

Phrases of venery had been typically based mostly on traits individuals perceived within the animals, not from their intrinsic nature. A “piteousness of doves,” for instance, refers to the truth that the chicken holds a particular place in Christianity — dove returned to Noah with an olive leaf to sign the receding floodwaters, and God got here down as a dove to rejoice Jesus’ baptism. It has nothing to do with a dove’s pious peck.

Likewise, the crow obtained its time period of venery based mostly on faith and folklore. Sadly, crows lacked a PR marketing campaign as efficient as, properly, God.

Crows are omnivorous scavengers and can eat absolutely anything — bugs, seeds, fruits, eggs, and small animals. Traditionally, they’d typically seem on battlefields, in cemeteries, and after disasters to snack on the tasty carrion we people left mendacity round. Certainly one of Europe’s species is in reality named the carrion crow.

This affiliation with loss of life led individuals to imagine crows portended catastrophe. The all-black feathers in all probability didn’t assist. Folklore and superstitions additional fueled the assumption. One folktale tells how crows kind a parliament to determine the destiny of a member of the flock. Ought to the decision be unfavorable, the parliament will set upon the lone crow.3 There’s additionally the Irish mythological determine Morrigan (or Morrigu), who’s related to struggle, loss of life, and doom and seems as a crow.

It isn’t onerous to see how somebody thought a “homicide of crows” can be a acceptable.

However this status is hardly truthful, and science is displaying us that we’ve massively misjudged this species. Crows are extremely good, social birds. They’re able to utilizing instruments, taking part in tips, and studying new abilities.

One research requested crows and youngsters to get a deal with out of a tall, slim tube full of water. The crows shortly discovered that including objects to the tube raised the water stage, bringing the deal with inside vary. Kids youthful than 8 fared poorly in contrast with their corvid opponents.4

Crows have additionally been identified to deliver items to people who look after them. Gabi Mann, an 8-year-old Seattleite, feeds native crows in her backyard, and the birds present their appreciation by bringing her colourful baubles, comparable to earrings, marbles, and LEGO blocks. I don’t know of any dove, regardless of how pious, as considerate as that.5

Why is it called a murder of crows?

A crow, crowing.


Crows v2.0

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So, our reply is {that a} group of crows is known as a homicide as a result of some doublet-clad Englishman needed to point out off his poetical abilities by cementing the species’ bum rap. In actual fact, ornithologists don’t use phrases of venery. They seek advice from a bunch of birds, any birds, as a flock.

Since phrases of venery aren’t authoritative and are quite a few sufficient to be unwieldy, would we be higher off retiring them?

I don’t assume so. They’re a enjoyable, creative approach to make use of language and specific our curiosity within the animals we share the planet with. I’ll be the primary to confess {that a} “romp of otters” is cute and must be stated every time the chance arises.

But when we’re going to maintain these collective phrases, we must always set some floor guidelines:

First, grammar sticklers want to only cease. Think about that 4 hundred years from now, mother and father informed their youngsters, “She’s not your girlfriend, Timmy. You’re each youthful than 18, so technically, she’s your BAE.” Arguing that it is just correct to seek advice from a bunch of crows as a homicide is simply as ridiculous. Such arguments solely serve to make sticklers really feel superior of their trivial information and make English harder for non-native audio system to study. Sufficient already.

Second, we must always replace phrases of venery after they turn into out of date. The phrase “homicide of crows” expresses reservations from a time after we didn’t perceive how difficult, good, and versatile the species was.

The issue might be deciding on what attribute of the crow ought to we give attention to. We may spotlight the crow’s problem-solving mind. An clever of crows, or a genius bar of crows? Then once more, we may give attention to their considerate nature. A charity of crows, maybe? Yeah, “charity of crows” has a nice ring to it.


1. Entry for “venery.” On-line Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved on Aug. 25, 2018, from newurbanhabitat.com/phrase/venery#etymonline_v_49968.

2. Phrases of venery. Peter Lewis. Medium. Retrieved on Aug. 25, 2018, from newurbanhabitat.com/@plewis67/terms-of-venery-2fc9c8684a23

3. A homicide of crows: Crow Information. newurbanhabitat.com. Printed on Feb. 21, 2013. Retrieved on Aug. 26, 2018, from newurbanhabitat.com/wnet/nature/a-murder-of-crows-crow-facts/5965/.

4. Of Beasts and Brainpower. Kat McGowan. Common Science. Spring 2016. Pg. 60. Print.

5. The lady who will get items from birds. Katy Sewall. BBC Information. Printed on Feb. 25, 2015. Retrieved on Aug. 26, 2018, from newurbanhabitat.com/information/magazine-31604026.

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