“M” is for Bird Words

murder of crowsYesterday morning, we saw four young hawks being mobbed by crows. Mobbing is how birds react when they discover a predator:

The birds start to emit alarm calls and fly at the predator, diverting its attention and harassing it. Sometimes they make physical contact. Mobbing usually starts with just one or two birds, but may attract a large number of birds, often of many species.

Apparently, crows are the best at mobbing behaviors, and we can attest to their expertise.

A collection of crows is known as a murder. According to www.avesnoir.com:

This more poetic term for a flock of crows can be traced back at least to the 15th century, when it was recorded as a murther of crowes. Murther is a variant of Middle English murthre ‘murder,’ though the th sound had begun to be replaced with a “d” around 1300 C.E.

Apparently, the reputation of crows as scavengers seen feeding on rotting bodies of various sorts made the word murder an appropriate choice.

The hawks paired off, leaving in opposite directions while the crows made low circles over the field protecting their territory.

I have notice other bird flight formations lately over the same field this past winter. The birds heading south seemed to linger later in the season. There was no reason to rush.  Murmurations of starlings practiced coordinated ballets in the deepening dusk sky.

Mobbing. Murder. Murmurations. All bird words that (surprisingly) start with “M”.


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