Collective nouns for animals – words you need to know for your next safari

A crash of rhinos, anyone? Or a prickle of porcupines? How about a parliament of owls?

If you have no idea what I am talking about, you are not alone. The collective nouns used as names for groups of animals are often unexpectedly bizarre. While most of us know that a group of lions is called a pride, who knew that a group of jaguars is called a shadow? Or that the collective noun for leopards is a leap?

Earlier this year, I found myself watching a very active bird feeder on a Brazilian farm in the Pantanal, when I heard my friend remark: “Such a colourful pandemonium of parrots”. In answer to our blank stares, he explained that the collective noun used for a group of parrots was a pandemonium. No doubt, he’s been waiting for a chance to drop it in a conversation since the beginning of our trip.

That conversation piqued my curiosity and I decided to look up some more collective nouns for animals. If you would like to impress your friends on your next safari, pick a couple of terms from the list below and use them at the first chance you get.

Collective nouns for animals

Names for Groups of Mammals

To get the ball rolling with discovering the unexpected names for groups of animals: What is a group of lemurs called?

Collective nouns for animals - a tower of giraffes
A tower of giraffes in South Africa (Image – Pixabay)
  • Apes – shrewdness
  • Badgers – cete
  • Bats – colony
  • Bears – sloth (or sleuth)
  • Buffalo – gang, herd
  • Cats (wild) – destruction
  • Cheetahs – Coalition
  • Deer – brace (two), leash (three)
  • Dolphins – herd, pod, school
  • Donkeys – herd, pace
  • Echidnas – parade
  • Elephants – parade, herd
  • Elk – gang
  • Ferrets – business
  • Foxes – earth; leash (three), skulk
  • Fur seals – harem (belonging to one male)
  • Giraffes – tower, herd
  • Gorillas – band
  • Hares – down, huske, leash (three)
  • Hedgehogs – array
  • Hippopotamuses – bloat
  • Horses – harras, span (a team of two), string
  • Hyenas – cackle, clan
  • Jaguars – shadow
  • Kangaroos – flock, mob, troop
  • Kittens – kindle
  • Lemur – conspiracy
  • Leopards – leap
  • Lions – pride
  • Martens – richesse
  • Mice – mischief, nest
  • Moles – labour
  • Monkeys – troop
  • Otters – raft, romp, bevy
  • Platypus – paddle
  • Porcupines – prickle
  • Porpoises – herd, pod, school
  • Prairie dogs – coterie
  • Rabbits – berry
  • Rhinoceroses – crash
  • Roes – bevy
  • Rooks – building, parliament
  • Seals – plump, spring, colony, harem
  • Sheep – flock, fold, mob, wing
  • Squirrels – scurry, dray (a nest)
  • Tigers – streak, ambush
  • Whales – gam, herd, plump, pod
  • Wolves – pack, rout
  • Wombats – wisdom
  • Zebras – zeal

Names for Groups of Birds

Learning that a group of parrots is called a pandemonium was an eye-opening revelation for me. But this is not even the strangest name on the list.

Collective nouns for animals - pandemonium of parrots
A pandemonium of parrots in Brazil
  • Choughs – clattering
  • Coots – covert
  • Crows – murder
  • Doves – dole (or dule)
  • Ducks – paddling (on water); raft (on water)
  • Dunlins – fling (in flight)
  • Eagles – convocation, aerie
  • Emus – mob
  • Falcons – cast (a pair released after game)
  • Finches – charm, chirm
  • Flamingos – flamboyance 
  • Fowl – plump, skein (in flight), trip
  • Geese – gaggle, skein (in flight), wedge (in V formation in flight)
  • Goldfinches – charm
  • Grouse – brace (two), covey, pack
  • Hawks – cast (a pair released after game), kettle (riding a thermal), leash (three)
  • Herons – siege (or sedge, or sege)
  • Lapwings – desert
  • Larks – bevy, exaltation, exalting
  • Magpies – tidings
  • Mallards – sord, sute
  • Nightingales – watch
  • Owls – parliament
  • Parrots – pandemonium
  • Partridges – covey
  • Peacocks – muster, ostentation
  • Pheasants – bevy, bouquet (when flushed), nye
  • Pigeons – kit
  • Plovers – congregations, wing
  • Quails – bevy
  • Ravens – unkindness
  • Ruffs – hill
  • Sheldrake – dropping
  • Snipe – walk, wisp
  • Sparrows – host
  • Starlings – murmuration
  • Swans – wedge (in V formation in flight)
  • Teal – spring, string
  • Turkeys – rafter
  • Waterfowl – bunch, knob (less than 30), raft (on water)
  • Woodcocks – fall
  • Woodpeckers – descension

Names for Groups of Amphibians and Reptiles

  • Crocodiles – bask
  • Frogs – knot
  • Toads – knot
  • Vipers – nest
  • Cobras – quiver
  • Lizards – lounge

Names for Groups of Fish

A shiver of sharks
A shiver of sharks (Image source: Pixabay)
  • Fish – run (moving upstream for spawning), school, shoalhover
  • Sharks – shiver, school

Names for Groups of Invertebrates

The collective noun for a group of jellyfish is a smack of jellyfish
A smack of jellyfish (Image source: Pixabay)
  • Bees – bike, drift, hive, swarm
  • Butterflies – flight, wing
  • Cockroaches – intrusion
  • Jellyfish – smack, brood
  • Mosquitoes – scourge
  • Snails – escargatoire, rout, walk

Names for Groups of Domestic Animals

And if you are not heading on a safari any time soon, here are some collective nous for domestic animals

Name for a group of kittens is an intrigue of kittens
An intrigue of kittens (image source: Pixabay)
  • Cats – clowder, pounce or glaring, for kittens – a kindle, litter or intrigue
  • Dogs – litter (puppies) or cowardice
  • Donkeys – pace
  • Goats – tribe or trip
  • Mules – pack, span or barren
  • Pigs – drift, drove, sounder, team or passel
  • Ducks – brace, team, flock (in flight), raft (on water), paddling or badling
  • Geese – flock, gaggle (on the ground) or skein (in flight)
  • Turkeys – rafter or gang

Origins of Names for Groups of Animals

You may rightfully wonder about the origin of these unexpected terms. Who and how came up with names like a parliament of owls? 

A brief search on google reveals an interesting picture. Most of these terms originate from the Book of Saint Albans written in 1486 to introduce the terms of venery, which is an old French word for hunting. For centuries, English nobility spoke French rather than English.

So when English kings reverted to speaking English, the Book of Saint Albans was published to provide English terms used in hunting – a practice reserved for nobility alone. The book is also known by a more accurate title of “The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms

And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The terms like a gaggle of geese or a nest of mice, reflect animal behaviour since they were created for hunting purposes. Other terms, like a crush of rhinos, are more recent additions, probably created to match the arcane names.

More Wildlife Guides


Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.