Archive for the ‘Did You Know…?’ Category

A murmuration of starlings. Copyright 2009-2013 ATA Walerian Walawski

A murmuration of starlings. Copyright 2009-2013 ATA Walerian Walawski

Most people think that any grouping of birds, whether in flight or on the ground, is called a “flock.”

You may have heard of a “murder of crows” or a “gaggle of geese.” In this edition of Did You Know…?, we’re going to learn a few more terms that you can impress your friends with.

First of all, a flock of birds may also be called a flight or a volary.

And now, here we go:

Crows: A murder or a horde.

Eagles: A convocation.

Finches: A charm. (Love that.)

Geese: A flock or gaggle (not in flight) or a skein (in flight).

Gulls: A colony.

Jays: A party or a scold.

Larks: An exaltation. (Someone must have really liked larks.)

Magpies: A tiding, a gulp, a murder, or a charm.

Mallards: A sord (in flight) or a brace (not in flight).

Owls: A parliament.

Plovers: A congregation or a wing (in flight).

Quail: A bevy or a covey.

Ravens: An unkindness. (Someone didn’t like ravens.)

Sparrows: A host.

Starlings: A murmuration. (Funny. These noisy birds do anything but murmur.)

Turkeys: A rafter or a gang. (“Watch out for that gang of turkeys. They look shifty.”)

And now you know.

By the way, the list goes on. Learn more at the USGS.

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Learn all about the birds in your own backyard! Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds is now available for you to read (and take with you!) on your Kindle, Kindle app, or on your PC or Mac.

Also available at Barnes and Noble for the Nook.

I’m not sure where I got it, but I grew up believing the notion that a “mallard” is a male duck. I had no idea that there were different kinds of ducks, just that ducks existed…and I thought they were all the same species. Thankfully, I eventually learned the truth, that “mallard” is actually a species of duck, and any male duck is called a drake. Females are called hens.

This actually wasn’t anything I was going to admit to anyone, mind you, but when a visitor to our home the other night innocently told my daughter the same thing I’d believed as a child…I decided this case of mistaken identity was more widespread than I originally thought.

So, in case you also thought “mallard” was just another word for a male duck…now you know that a mallard is a species of duck — and can be either male or female.

A pair of mallard ducks. Photo credit: Richard Bartz

A pair of mallard ducks. Photo credit: Richard Bartz

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Learn all about the birds in your own backyard! Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds is now available for you to read (and take with you!) on your Kindle, Kindle app, or on your PC or Mac.

Also available at Barnes and Noble for the Nook.

Black-headed grosbeak (left); evening grosbeak (right). Photo copyright 2013 Pacific Northwest Birds/Sally Dinius

Black-headed grosbeak, left; evening grosbeak, right. Photo credit: Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds


Today a new feature debuts on the Pacific Northwest Birds blog called “Did You Know…?” Every now and then, I run across little tidbits of information that may not warrant full-length posts of their own but are still fun to share. Fun enough, even, to get their own category here on the blog.

The first “Did You Know…?” that I’d like to share with you pertains to grosbeaks: black-headed and evening grosbeaks, specifically, which are the two types most commonly seen in the Pacific Northwest.

So, did you know that black-headed grosbeaks and evening grosbeaks are not in the same bird family? The only thing they really have in common — besides being birds — is that they have large beaks. Grosbeak literally means “large beak.”

If we follow their classification, we see that evening grosbeaks are large finches, while black-headed grosbeaks are in the same family as cardinals:

Black-headed Grosbeaks
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Cardinalidae (cardinals)
Genus: Pheucticus
Species: P. melanocephalus

Evening Grosbeaks
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae (finches)
Genus: Coccothraustes
Species: C. vespertinus

And now you know!

__________________________________________


Learn all about the birds in your own backyard! Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds is now available for you to read (and take with you!) on your Kindle, Kindle app, or on your PC or Mac.

Also available at Barnes and Noble for the Nook.

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