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What do you call them?

December 31, 2011
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

Here I am again facing a news column deadline. With the holidays making for short work weeks this week and next, I'm afraid that leaves me scrambling to meet my newspaper commitments. That's OK I tell myself. I'll just go to my file of news column topics. The problem is, however, I find that it is an ever dwindling bag of news column ideas that I have filed away for inspiration. It shouldn't be that big of a problem. Take animal life , for instance. In this world there are 800,000 different insects, 20,000 different fish, 9,000 birds, 6,000 reptiles 4,000 mammals and 3,000 different amphibians. I shouldn't run out of animals to write about for a long time. Animal groups in general got me thinking. That led to groups of animals we have grown to call large groups of animals.

I am amused sometimes at the names we have given to different groups of animals. We all know that a group of cattle is called a herd. Partridge come in coveys and I bet you know a group of pigeons is called a flock. When I think of geese, I think of a flock, but put them in a barnyard and they are called a gaggle.

Other groups are odd but you can maybe figure it out if you use your imagination. An intrusion of cockroaches got that name I would guess because that is what they are in homes. Oysters and clams are found in beds. Makes sense to me. They spend most of their time lying around. Gnats come in hordes or clouds and I can visualize those even as I type this. A whole bunch of kangaroos is called a mob. After watching a show on kangaroos, I can see how some of those large groups of kangaroos over in Australia seem like a mob as they move into an area. A crash of rhinos makes perfect sense to me.

I felt a little sad when I learned that people named it a bloat of hippopotamuses. Sure, they're overweight but it just seems mean.

But there are other groups that puzzle me. A murder of crows for instance. Where did that come from? I saw on the news just the other night that the City of Waterloo wants to do that to the crows that have taken up residence there. And then there is this one - a labour of moles. I know it takes a lot of work to dig all of those tunnels that they dig. Is that where it comes from? I know that anytime I have tried to eliminate the ones that show up in my yard it has required a lot of work on my part to get it accomplished.

But the one that took the prize for me was a charm of goldfinches. From now on, every time that I stand at the window and watch the beautiful little goldfinches at my thistle feeders I'll think of that. Charming little goldfinches. It works for me.



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