Based on group nouns, the next time you see crows roosting or scavenging, say you are looking at a murder of crows.
Yes, that's right, a murder.
But, I doubt you will ever use such fancy words to describe animal groups in this century because the English language is no longer about displaying nobility through exaggerated terms but about convenience and effective communication.
So, what is a group of crows called these days?
Most people call it a flock.
A Murder? - Facts About This Collective Noun
Collective nouns originated in medieval times. Some terms were complimentary, such as a charm of goldfinches, while others used exaggeration or pure poetic license to describe large groups. Aristocrats must have found it fashionable to use such exaggerated language that they accepted whichever names were suggested in publications and used them in everyday speech.
Who was responsible for this trend?
These nouns originated in the late middle ages after the publication of books like The Book of Saint Albans, a list of group nouns. The first consisted of group nouns for many animals a hunter could come across, but the lists grew to include other group terms for professions or human groups.
Each group noun has a history. There are various explanations for the murder of crows collective term.
Old Folk Tales
One of these folk tales suggests that a group of crows congregates to decide the capital fate of one of them. This bird species can eliminate a dying crow from a flock, a behavior that may be the basis of this tale.
Plus, man is always fascinated by this bird, so he can create folk tales about it because crows belong to the Corvidae family, which has some of the most intelligent avians in the world, like the Yellow-billed Chough with its yellow beak. This family has other birds like jays, nutcrackers, and magpies. Crows are self-aware in mirror tests and have a brain-to-body ratio like the great apes. They even investigate the deaths of fellow crows.
Crows are also rooted in superstitions.
Maybe, some feared it and their superstitious opinions fanned the belief that led to the association with murder.
Crows Have Scavenger Habits
Some people cannot stand crows because these birds spend most of their time scavenging, even in cemeteries. Thus, some assume crows are always around dead bodies. Their dark plumage and destructive habits also contributed to their association with death and dead bodies.
There are even carrion crows in the Corvus genus, and their name is proof of their favorite pastime.
Most people say crows are pests because they destroy crops. Even worse, you find them everywhere in North America except in the northernmost region of Antarctica, which means their destructive habits are widespread.
These short-distance migrants spend the breeding season in Canada and winter in the southern states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and a small section of Oklahoma. Other parts of the United States host resident birds; therefore, American crows are everywhere every time of the year.
Wait until you see this species roosting. It stays in a flock of 200 to thousands of birds in winter, foraging in garbage disposal sites or urban centers. Additionally, crows form groups for protection from attacks by predators like the red-tailed hawk and the great-horned owl. When a predator is around, the bird makes a distress call to warn other birds or ask for assistance from other crows.
A Group Noun Is A Poetic Term
Another school of thought suggests the phrase murder of crows has no relation to the bird's behavior or habitats because it originates from a time when the world used colorful and poetic names for large groups.
Proponents point to other collective nouns, most of which will leave you in stitches. For instance, how did they settle for a siege of herons or a gulp of swallows?
Whoever used murder as a poetic term to group a flock of crows had dark thoughts about this glossy blackbird.
James Lipton lists over 1,000 such collective nouns in An Exaltation of Larks. Testing your knowledge on these terms can make an excellent Sunday afternoon activity alone or with friends.
Birdhub Talk: Have you ever wondered what crows really eat (aside from the ones seen in movies and television shows)? Fly to this page and learn more -- What Do Crows Eat?
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you call a group of 10 crows?
Their collective term is the same whether there are five or a thousand crows. You will still refer to the group as a murder of crows.
In most cases, you see more than ten crows together during the nonbreeding months, but if you come across a small flock and want another collective term other than murder, you can call it a horde or mob of crows. Call it a flock of crows if you prefer simple words, not the fanciful descriptions of last-century aristocrats.
What are ravens in a group called?
It seems most species in the Corvidae family have some very unusual terms because a group of ravens is a conspiracy or an unkindness. As we noted with the crow, old folk tales must have called ravens a conspiracy because mythology always associated this species with dark omen.
Unlike crows that are always in large flocks; hence, the term murder, ravens stay in pairs most of the time. I doubt you will ever say a conspiracy of ravens because it is another group noun from another time.
What is a group of owls called?
The collective noun is a parliament of owls. Maybe it borrows from the thought that owls are wise.
What is a group of magpies called?
There are many terms for this species, all as strange as the terms discussed throughout this article. They are murder, mischief, parliament, and tribe. You can even say a tiding of magpies.
In conclusion, what is a group of crows called? The social nature of crows sees a flock of thousands roosting together. There are many terms to describe such a flock. For instance, you can refer to it as a parcel or a mob. But, the most ideal and common noun for it is murder.
There are no rules about the number of birds you have to see for you to say you can see a murder of crows. But since this species is always in a large group, you can always use this very poetic term, murder. Will you?