STEVE ASHMORE: A shiver of sharks and a murder of crows
A friend told me that he found it interesting that a group of apes is called a congress. That seemed much too easy a joke so I did a little research and found they are actually referred to as a troop. I couldn’t stop there; the website listed almost 200 group names, so here are some of the more interesting designations.
Floridians should know that alligators gather in congregations while their cousins the crocodiles amass in floats. While we’re still around water everyone knows that most fish travel in schools, but there some of the more aggressive species have their own monikers. Barracudas travel in a battery and no one should be surprised that a group of sharks can be referred to as a shiver.
Our feathered friends can be referred to by more than flocks. Groups of parrots are appropriately called a pandemonium. A gathering of crows is called a murder, while their cousins the ravens are often called an unkindness. Perhaps a reference to the wicked visitor that Edgar Allen Poe wrote about. A more stately name is associated with sets of owls which can be called a parliament or just as apropos, a stare. Clusters of flamingos have been named a stand, though sometimes they are also a flamboyance.
Staying with things in flight but moving out of the ornithology field, there are bats, butterflies, locusts, and mosquitos. If you find them hanging in a cave bats are generally referred to as a colony. But if they take flight they are correctly called a cloud. Butterflies understandably are described as a flutter. Of course, farmers detest a plague of locusts. And the mosquito is not actually the Florida state bird. If you don’t have your citronella candles burning you’re likely to be visited by a scourge of mosquitos.
The animal kingdom’s trash pickers have some interesting names. An assembly of bears is a sloth, while a bunch of opossums is a grin. Crowds of raccoons with their little black masks are termed a gaze.
On a friendlier note, hummingbirds are a charm when they collectively gather. If you’re one of those lucky ones who can find more than one unicorn, they are labeled a blessing. Who doesn’t love pandas. They’re rare but if you find a number of them together it’s called a bamboo. I guess it’s true, you are what you eat.