Feathered Friend Collectives

I've written about collective nouns for animals before. I've even set up a whole page for them on our website. Some are pretty mundane … a herd of cows, a flock of sheep or a pack of wolves. The ones that intrigue me the most, however, are the collective nouns for specific species of birds. Some of them are descriptive and others are off the wall. See what I mean.

helmeted guinea fowl

A confusion of guinea fowl


masked lapwings

A desert of lapwings



A gulp of swallows


american woodpecker

A descent of woodpeckers


jackal buzzard

A wake of buzzards


yellow eyed canary

An opera of canaries



A mob of emus



A weight of albatross


broad billed sandpiper

A fling of sandpipers



A wobble of ostriches

By the way, a great source of collective nouns for birds is New Zealand Birds.

Leave it to the Birds

There's animalification, zoomorphism, personification, anthromorphization and… I've got a new one for you … avimorphism … ascribing bird characteristics to humans, usually in the form of similes. It's a new word. I just coined it.  

australian magpie


You know what I mean … if you call someone a magpie, it connotes that that person is a gossip or prone to excessive chat. In Australia, if you're called a “galah”, it means you're a stupid, dull-witted person. Actually, we kind of liked the look of galahs … pink and white cockatoos. We never got the chance to evaluate their intelligence level, but we assume someone has. If not a gallah, perhaps they'd call you a birdbrain or a booby (named “bobo” by the Spanish, meaning fool).




We tend to refer to lawyers as vultures, circing the dead, so they can eat the remains. There are probably other descriptive and more derogatory terms for lawyers, but vulture works.




You can be “proud as a peacock” when you strut your stuff or “graceful as a swan”.




“Bald as a coot” and “naked as a jaybird” or as the Brits say “naked as a robin”. As far as I can tell, coots aren't bald. They may look it, but they're not. Jaybirds have lovely blue and grey feathers and robins aren't naked at all.


canadian goose


There are old “crows” and someone can be “silly as a goose”. Not that I especially like crows, but I'm not sure I've ever seen an old one. It's hard to determine their age at all. As far as geese go, “silly” is not the adjective I would have chosen to describe them, nor the people that they're silly as. Maybe I would have said “honked as a goose”, but I'm not sure what that would mean any more than “silly” … where do you suppose that came from? I do, unfortunately, get that distinctly extinct feeling when I hear “dead as a dodo” though.


angry birds


I'm more inclined to use the positive attributes of our feathered friends. Being on the boat, we many times feel we're “free as a bird” and when we congregate with other folks who are like-minded, we consider them “birds of a feather”. I think the captain might be wise as an owl (I'll get extra credits for saying that) except when he's driving and gets cut off and “flips someone the bird”. Hmmm...I guess that's a whole other discussion. Makes me want to stick my head in the sand.


european goldfinch Whenever I used to think of “birdwatching”, I pictured a skinny-legged fellow in khaki shorts, probably wearing black socks and “sneakers”, a wide-brimmed hat, binoculars around his neck and a bird list in his hand, ready to tick off each bird he spotted. Birdwatching was a hobby for old people or nerds with nothing better to do with their time. It's not that I disliked birds. It's more that I saw them, but never took the time to really notice them. Oh, a bluebird. Gee whiz, there's a seagull. Hmm, the first spring robin. Not much enthusiasm. Boy, did I have it wrong.

pacific black ducks

When we moved aboard Nine of Cups and we were sailing, birds really started to get my attention. Sea birds, shore birds, passerines, non-passerines, big, little. Each new area had its own particular birdlife and that became even more apparent as we traveled from country to country and then from the Equator to the Antarctic. With nearly 10,000 bird species throughout the world, we'd be hard pressed not to find a new species wherever we went. What once seemed nerdy became absolutely fascinating.

birdwatching book

Of course along with finally noticing birds, came the need to identify them. So I bought a big “Birds of the World” identification guide. Soon, this was not enough. I needed a less bulky book that I could throw in my backpack. I wanted one which included more identification photos and/or sketches, like seeing a bird in flight as well as sitting on a bough. I wanted more information about the bird and its call. I've ended up investing in a bird book for each major area we've visited and I don't regret it in the least. I usually find a used copy which helps the budget significantly. In fact, I even traded a bird photo of a Pitcairn warbler with a publisher one time in return for an Australian bird book. That's how I got my Simpson & Day Birds of Australia which is in constant use.

pitcairn warbler

Now, I'm so totally enthralled with birds and photographing them, I've created separate pages on our website for them. Australia has ~800 bird species and though we'd seen and identified lots, it's not even close to what's out there. The best bird site and bird photography I've ever seen is Ian Montgomery's Birdway. When I can't find what I'm looking for in my bird book, I refer to his site for an answer and he never lets me down.

masked lapwing

That brings us to our current location in Cygnet. Not far away from our anchorage at the head of the bay is the Port Cygnet Conservation area. It's a ~250 acre wetland reserve and wildlife sanctuary and an important feeding, nesting and roosting area for over 70 species of birds. A boardwalk and paths meander through the wetland area allowing close up views of its visitors and inhabitants without encroaching too much on their turf.

white faced heron

It's a pleasant and fascinating place to explore. Tasmanian native hens scurry around on the grass and disappear into the tall marsh reeds. Masked lapwings shriek and tromp around in the mud at low tide and white-faced herons wait stone-still, hoping for some breakfast to swim by. Sea eagles regularly frequent this area, but unfortunately we didn't see any. There was much less birdlife than we saw on our last visit and we wonder if the smoke and soot from the bushfires is keeping them away. Hopefully, it's just a temporary thing.


Days and Ways to Celebrate

A daily list of mostly obscure holidays and fun ways to celebrate them.

World Nerd Day

Where would we be without them? We'd still be using tin cans and string while calculating on an abacus. High five a nerd today...they're easy to pick out in a crowd.