You’ve seen a pack of dogs and a troop of monkeys, maybe you’ve swum with a school of fish or spotted a pride of lions. These collective nouns, referring to groups of the same species, roll right off the tongue. But there are other terms for animal or bird collectives that aren’t as commonly used or known. For instance, a group of flamingos is called a “flamboyance” and a collective of crows is a “murder”. Some animal collective nouns are quirky, while others can be downright funny.

A bask of crocodiles
The large reptiles often like to sunbathe in groups, and so a gathering of crocodiles is called a “bask”. When the sun is out, you’ll see crocodiles sprawled on large rocks or riverbanks. Crocodiles are coldblooded creatures, and need to absorb plenty of sunlight to warm up. Sometimes, they bask with their mouths wide open, to cool their heads and regulate their body temperature. Even so, the sight of a jaws-wide-open gaping gharial is a rather ominous one.

Gharials live in rivers and leave the water only to nest or bask in the sun (as seen here along the banks of Chambal River).  Photo: Dhritiman Mukherjee  Cover photo: Every winter, flamingos flock, feed, and breed by the thousands at Gujarat’s Little Rann of Kutch.  Cover photo: Dhritiman Mukherjee

Gharials live in rivers and leave the water only to nest or bask in the sun (as seen here along the banks of Chambal River).
Photo: Dhritiman Mukherjee
Cover photo: Every winter, flamingos flock, feed, and breed by the thousands at Gujarat’s Little Rann of Kutch.
Cover photo: Dhritiman Mukherjee

A parliament of owls
Owls are somewhat solemn looking birds with a rather wise air about them. When a group of owls convene, they are collectively referred to as a “parliament”. Can you imagine owls in congress, making decisions on wildly important matters under the cover of night? If this seems like something out of a fairy tale, it is. The origins of the term can be traced back to CS Lewis’s 1950s fantasy book, The Chronicles of Narnia, where the author described owls in a similar scenario. Since then, the term has come to be widely accepted.

A scurry of squirrels
Squirrels always seem to be in a hurry to get to their next meal. You’ll often see the familiar tan coloured Indian palm squirrel scurrying across residential lawns. In South and Central Indian jungles, amber-hued Malabar giant squirrels can be spotted rushing across the branches of trees. Glossy black Malayan giant squirrels in northeast India are perpetually busy feeding on fruits, seeds, and leaves in the canopy. These creatures though normally solitary, do occasionally get together. And since they are rarely still for long, a group of squirrels is aptly called a “scurry”.

Though the Indian rhinoceros is primarily a solitary animal, there are exceptions: females with their young and breeding pairs. Sometimes a few rhinos may wallow in a swamp, or graze, or rest together as well, though eventually going off on their own. Photo: GUDKOV ANDREY/Shutterstock

Though the Indian rhinoceros is primarily a solitary animal, there are exceptions: females with their young and breeding pairs. Sometimes a few rhinos may wallow in a swamp, or graze, or rest together as well, though eventually going off on their own. Photo: GUDKOV ANDREY/Shutterstock

A crash of rhinos
Though the lumbering beasts are solitary creatures, you’ll often see female rhinos trailed by their young. A group of rhinos is called a “crash”. Despite their immense girth, rhinos are exceptionally speedy creatures, and can easily catch up with your safari vehicle if they choose to. Hulking pachyderms charging at speeds of over 50 kmph do have the potential to “crash” into things, given that their eyesight is rather poor.

Malavika Bhattacharya
Malavika Bhattacharya

is a travel and culture journalist always looking for an excuse to head into a forest or an ocean. Find her work at www.malavikabhattacharya.com.


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