Clusters of Critters or Hordes of Herds

Posted on May 01 2019 in Outdoors
This bunch of turtles on a single hippo’s back is called a bale.


While gathering information about eagle watch programs across the state, I came across something noting that a group of eagles was not technically called a “flock.” Doing what is totally unexpected of an outdoors writer, I researched the proper terms for collective groups of animals. Sure enough: A group of eagles is known as a “convocation!”

Some of the collective names we give animal groups are quite descriptive while others make little sense. Here are some of the more interesting ones I collected.

All my life, I have called a group of buffalo a “herd.” Yep … that was wrong. In proper terminology, they are known as a “gang” or an “obstinacy.” I don’t want to be obstinate, but if the buffalo being described are here in North America, they are actually bison.

Some groups like bees (swarm) and bats (colony) I knew offhand. But, when making reference to a group of bears, one should say a “sloth” or a “sleuth.” Which begs the question: Is a group of the slow-moving rainforest mammals called “a sloth of sloths?”

I would call a group of cats a “bunch” of cats; and I would be wrong. They are collectively known as a “clowder” or a “glaring” … unless they are wild cats. Then, most appropriately, they are referred to as a “destruction.”

Who, too, came up with a “business” of ferrets? And I’ve heard of a “cast of thousands,” but not a “cast” of falcons!

A “school” of fish? That, I get. But a “stand” of flamingos? That must relate to how we see them most often … just standing there on one leg — in wetlands or on kitschy front lawns.

A “prickle” of porcupines I can understand. But a “pandemonium” of parrots is something to talk about.

The collective names for many African critters are both quite creative and descriptive, but others are also a little sketchy! Consider: A group of camels is naturally called a “caravan,” and elephants would be a “parade.” I can see a group of giraffes being referred to as a “tower” because of their height. And though hippos are bloated, who first thought of calling them a “bloat?” Hyenas are called a “cackle”; jaguars are a “shadow”; and leopards are a “leap.” The proud kings of the jungle are a “pride.” But a “conspiracy” of lemurs?

Now here is one I consider most descriptive — a group of skunks is called a “stench.” I can vouch for this nomenclature as I have suffered the stench by disturbing a “stench!” Meanwhile, my wife has been doing a lot of laboring in her garden leveling out mole mounds. I’m not mentioning the irony of the collective term: a “labor” of moles.

Through all this research, I can’t help but happily wonder: As more “convocations” of eagles come together, should the combined group now appropriately be called a “revival?”

JACK SPAULDING is a state outdoors writer and a consumer of RushShelby Energy living along the Flatrock River in Moscow. Readers with questions or comments can write to him in care of Indiana Connection or email