Crows are highly intelligent birds and can be found on all continents apart from Antarctica. They are mainly seen in groups, but what are these groups of crows called? Most of these collective nouns date back to the late Middle Ages but are still used today.
The most common collective nouns to describe a group of crows are a murder of crows, a mob of crows and a horde of crows.
Crow is the common name for the genus Corvus. Collectively, this group is referred to as corvids and includes crows, ravens, jays and magpies. Continue reading for more collective nouns and why a group of crows are called a murder, along with more information.
A family of crows
The term 'murder' has been given to a flock of crows, some of which are historical and other reasons down to their behaviour. Crows are omnivorous and scavengers by nature, so they are often spotted scavenging around carrion (dead animals) and other birds.
Historically, crows could be found around battlefields, cemeteries, gallows and hospitals, essentially waiting for any opportunities for a food source.
The association with these places highly linked with death and dark things meant that crows got a bit of a bad reputation over time, and superstitions surrounding them were made up.
One of the superstitions states that crows form parliaments and tribunals to come to a verdict as to whether to punish a fellow member of their flock for any bad behaviour or wrongdoing. It was said that if the bird were found guilty, then the rest of the flock would murder the guilty crow.
This, of course, has never been found to be the case amongst crows; however, the only glimpse of truth is that crows will occasionally kill weak or injured crows that trespass on their territory during fights.
A 'murder' of crows in the winter
During late spring and summer, crows generally tend to hang out in small family groups consisting of up to 10 birds.
When the colder months come around, crows can form groups from hundreds of others, all the way up in the thousands, in some cases. These large flocks are often noisy and can be disruptive to other birds.
A large flock of crows on the ground
There have been few studies as to why crows form these large groups called murders, but experts in Corvids have concluded that it's for a number of reasons, each that come with their own benefits.
The first reason is that the large flock will roost together, and roosting in these large numbers provides safety, heat and better access and scavenging abilities for food sources.
It's thought that roosting in a flock at night, particularly during the colder winter months, means that when the birds are sleeping closer to another warm body, means it's much easier for them to stay warm and fend off the cold at night.
Another benefit of these large roosts is that there is greater protection with the higher number of birds. This is because there are more birds to look out and alert at the sight of a predator, and predators are much likely to attack when there are many crows.
Peregrine Falcons, Eagles, Great Horned Owls and various types of hawks all predate on crows from time to time, so safety in numbers is paramount to discouraging attacks.
One other reason is that the collective effort for finding food. It works well as many crows can go off and seek out food sources for the others to join.
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