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This October will be my third Chinati Open House since living in Marfa, and the second where I have lived across the street from the Chinati Foundation. What that means is that it is the second year of the incessant whine of weed whackers from sunrise to sunset as Chinati preps for open house. And we’re talking multiple weed whackers…so that led me to trying to think of a good collective noun for them: a whinge of weed whackers, maybe? And has weed whacker been elevated to a compound noun, weed-whacker?

As a word lover, I am naturally enthralled by the group names for birds. Many of these are noted in James Lipton’s book, An Exaltation of Larks. What is intriguing about the English language is how it evolves through usage, how malleable it is. Most of these group names can’t be found in the dictionary, but have been adopted through use by birders with sources as far back as 1440.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • A building of rooks
  • A charm of finches
  • A company of parrots
  • A cover of coots
  • A deceit of lapwings
  • A descent of woodpeckers
  • An exaltation of larks
  • A murmuration of starlings
  • A murder of crows
  • A parliament of owls
  • A pitying of turtledoves
  • A sord of mallards
  • An unkindness of ravens

If you want more, check out the Baltimore Bird Club website, where I uncovered this list, and the handy table at Nutty Birdwatcher.