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Written by: Nancy Moncrief
Tuesday February 23, 2016

A few weeks ago, large groups of black vultures were gathering near my house and soaring over my part of town. Seeing these large groups reminded me of a peculiarity of English. We have different words (called collective nouns) for different groups of animals, depending on which species makes up the group.  Familiar collectives include “pack” of dogs, “herd” of cattle, “pod” of whales, and “flock” of geese. Perhaps less familiar, but more expressive, collectives include “exaltation” of larks, “murmuration” of starlings, “murder” of crows, and (my personal favorite) “scurry” of squirrels.  

I already knew that a group of soaring raptors (birds of prey such as hawks and vultures) is called a “kettle.”  So, I was interested to learn that a resting group of vultures is called a “wake.”  While this is a somewhat expressive term, I was hoping for something a little more suggestive, maybe something like a “carcass” or a “scavenging” of vultures.  Anyway, I was able to take a couple of pretty good photos with my phone.

 Here’s the “wake.”

A resting group of vultures, collectively known as a   

And here’s the “kettle.”  All the black dots are vultures.

Soaring vultures, collectively known as a

Tags: Biology, Dr. Nancy Moncrief, Research and Collections

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