How many times do you think about what to call a large number of creatures gathered in one place? A herd of cattle or a flock of sheep might be common sights for some people. When was the last time you saw a pod of pelicans or a bale of turtles? Personally, I prefer to say a squadron instead of pod, pouch, or scoop of pelicans. Have you stumbled upon a generation of vipers or a congregation of crocodiles recently?
More than once I came upon a rhumba of rattlesnakes in the deserts of New Mexico. When all our walnut trees starting getting eaten in Pennsylvania I noticed an army of caterpillars up there in the trees along with a murmuration of starlings. Personally I have never seen a spring of teals or a mutation of thrushes but perhaps I was just not paying attention. A murder of magpies, shivers of sharks, or a smacks of jellyfish are not easily forgotten.
Humans may live in tribes but larks fly together in an exaltation. Too many flamingos can rightfully be called a flamboyance. A gathering of wombats is called a "wisdom" while woodpeckers form descents, pigs join up in droves or sounders, and many finches form a charm. A troubling or glint of goldfish is perhaps less worrying than a cloud of grasshoppers or plague of locusts. A romp of otters might not seem threatening at first until you notice your brood of chickens has vanished.
Penguins and humans share colonies, in name only. Some people like hanging out in their dens as do snakes. Owls and government officials have each named their collective bodies "parliaments." Congress is what you call a pack of baboons or is it the other way around?
Musicians and gorillas prefer to work together in bands, just not the same bands. Looking around at each other, coteries of high school kids or prairie dogs share certain similarities, you must admit. Heads popping up every now and then to check out what's going on. Schools for whales, fish, or children work for most parents.
Many lizards come together as a lounge, go see one someday, you will understand. Playing with a bevy of beautiful blonds may prove more interesting than a bevy of quails. You can listen to a flock of seagulls, without streaming music. Then again facing a mob of emus is probably preferable to facing a mob of angry men. Gangs of elks, like hoards of gerbils, seldom carry the knives and chains found among other organized criminals. Safer to hang with a party of jays, a pandemonium of parrots and a trip of widgeons.
Never try to outrun a leash of greyhounds but make every effort to avoid bloats of hippotami, leaps of leopards and prides of lions. A bazaar of guillemots, a skein of goslings, and a deceit of lapwings I leave as mysteries for you to google until they become a clear as a flush of ducks or a chain of boblinks. Don't you dare google a gaggle of geese, they may take flight and thus become a skein (that's my old, old French coming from le mot escaigne). If they form into a perfect wedge, well that is precisely what you may call them!
The ones that worry me include an unkindness of ravens, a mutation of thrushes, and especially those fleets of mudhens. I get visions of excited University of Delaware fans showing up along with an aircraft carrier. I certainly would not mind having a fling, though not with sandpipers. I do not currently attend a congregation, of magpies that is!
A chine of polecats is not uncommon but outside of Africa a bloat of hippos is rare. A journey of giraffes is quite beautiful to watch running across the Serengeti but watch out for those clans of hyenas, gangs of elks (especially near Pennsylvania towns), and a beautiful bevy of roe deers. So the next time you see a flink of cows, a cowardice of curs, an obstinacy of buffalo, or an intrigue of kittens, call them exactly that!
San Diego Zoo
Fun With Words, Collective Nouns