A Season of Kildeer

Collective nouns for groups of animals are sometimes descriptive (herd of deer, flock of birds, colony of bats, pack of wolves, or school of fish), or sometimes pertinent to particular behaviors of animals, like a crash of rhinos, swarm of bees, caravan of camels, tower of giraffes, or pandemonium of parrots. But often the terms for a particular animal group are just fanciful, like dazzle of zebra, implausibility of gnus, charm of hummingbirds, or a siege of herons. It’s important, you know, to recognize these groups of wildlife by their proper title.

A “dazzle” of Zebra (do they dazzle you?)

Walking around the sloughs at Don Edwards SF Bay National wildlife refuge the other day, I came across the following scene:

There are a LOT of Kildeer in this muddy patch. How many do you see?
Slightly to the left of the previous bunch, there are a bunch more. This might be more Kildeer in one place than I have seen in total over many years of looking for birds. They blend into the background so well, I’ve lightened each of them up to make them more visible. Are there more Kildeer in this photo than in the previous one?

Like so many other collective nouns for animals, the term for a bunch of Kildeer seems to have no relationship to the bird itself — they are called a “season” of Kildeer. Which makes me wonder if we only see an assemblage (congregation) of this many Kildeer at certain times (season) of the year.

Normally we see Kildeer individually or in pairs, not in gangs of 10-20.

You might wonder how this practice of naming groups of animals got started? It turns out that these collective nouns are part of a hunting language that included terms for humans as well as animals, developed in England and France in the 1400s. They were compiled into The Book of St. Albans, published in 1486, and apparently the terms have stuck with us today, especially those describing groups of various bird and mammal species.

6 thoughts on “A Season of Kildeer

  1. Wow. That is a lot of kildeer–I don’t think that I have ever seen more than a handful at any time. In terms of collective nouns, this past year I encountered the one for butterflies–a kaleidoscope of butterflies–and was absolutely delighted. I guess that usage falls in your category of “fanciful.” 🙂

  2. Funny thing about this post — I wrote it when I was traveling in California, thought I scheduled it to be posted on November 29. But I mistakenly set the date for December 29, instead of November — so here it is completely out of order from the time I actually visited Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.

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