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Why is a group of crows called a "murder of crows"?

murder of crowsThis weird and morbid phrase which refers to a group 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 which means "murder."

Theories as to how this particular term came about include crows being scavengers and therefore often seen feeding on rotting bodies of various sorts. Survivors of wars have described how the battlefields were covered in black as crows (and ravens) came down to eat the dead.

Another theory hearkens back to old folklore which told of groups of crows essentially holding court over members of their flock that had committed offenses. If they decide against the "defendant" crow, then the rest of the flock swoops down on it and kills it.

As for "murmuration of starlings," "warren of wombats" and "prickle of hedgehogs," i still need to look those up, as well these other collective nouns for groups of animals:

herd of antelope
army of    ants
colony of ants
swarm of ants
shrewdness of apes
flange of baboons
congress of baboons
tribe of baboons
culture    of bacteria
cete of    badgers
colony of badgers
sleuth of bears
sloth of bears
pack of    bears (polar bears)
colony of beavers
lodge of beavers
flight of bees
grist of  bees
hive of    bees
swarm of bees
congregation of    birds
dissimulation of birds
flight of birds
flock of birds
volery of birds
sedge of bitterns
siege of bitterns
herd of    boar
singular of boar
sounder    of boar
chain of bobolinks
brace of bucks
clash of bucks
herd of    buffalo
rabble of butterflies
swarm of butterflies
wake of    buzzards
flock of camels
army of    caterpillars
clowder    of cats
clutter    of cats
glaring    of cats
pounce    of cats
dout of cats (house cats)
nuisance of cats (house cats)
kendle of cats (kittens)
kindle of cats (kittens)
litter of cats (kittens)
destruction of cats (wild cats)
drove of  cattle
herd of cattle
kine of cattle
team of cattle
yoke of cattle (two)
herd of    chamois
brood of chickens
flock of chickens
peep of chickens
brood of chicks
chattering of chicks
clutch of chicks
cartload of chimpanzees
herd of    chinchillas
bed of clams
quiver of cobras
rag of colts
rake of colts
bury of conies
cover of coots
flight of cormorants
band of coyotes
sedge of cranes
siege of cranes
congregation of crocodiles
float of crocodiles
storytelling of    crows
murder of crows
herd of    deer
leash of deer
parcel of deer
bevy of deer (roe deer)
kennel of dogs
pack of    dogs
litter of dogs (puppies)
pod of dolphins
drove of donkeys
herd of    donkeys
pace of    donkeys
trip of    dotterel
bevy of    doves
cote of    doves
dole of    doves
dule of    doves
flight of doves
piteousness of doves
flight of dragons
weyr of    dragons
wing of    dragons
brace of ducks
flock of ducks
flush of ducks
paddling of ducks
raft of ducks
team of    ducks
aerie of eagles
convocation of eagles
swarm of eels
herd of elephants
memory of elephants
parade of elephants
gang of elk
herd of elk
mob of emus
business of ferrets
cast of    ferrets
fesnying of ferrets
charm of finches
catch of fish
haul of    fish
run of fish
school of fish
shoal of fish
swarm of flies
lead of foxes
leash of foxes
skulk of foxes
army of frogs
colony of frogs
knot of    frogs
flock of geese
gaggle of geese
skein of geese (in flight)
wedge of geese (flying in a 'V')
horde of gerbils
corps of giraffes
herd of giraffes
tower of giraffes
cloud of gnats
horde of gnats
swarm of gnats
herd of    gnus
implausibility of gnus
drove of goats
herd of goats
tribe of goats
trip of    goats
charm of goldfinches
glint of goldfish
band of    gorillas
skein of goslings
leash of greyhounds
covey of grouse
pack of grouse
colony of gulls
group of guinea pigs
horde of hamsters
drove of hares
down of hares
husk of    hares
leash of hares
trace of hares
trip of    hares
warren of hares
aerie of hawks
cast of hawks
kettle of hawks
array of hedgehogs
prickle    of hedgehogs
brood of hens
hedge of herons
sedge of herons
siege of herons
shoal of herrings
crash of hippopotami
herd of    hippopotami
bloat of hippopotami
drift of hogs
parcel of hogs
passel of hogs
nest of    hornets
harras of horses
herd of    horses
stable of horses
team of    horses
troop of horses
cry of hounds
mute of hounds
pack of    hounds
charm of hummingbirds
clan of    hyenas
band of    jays
party of jays
scold of jays
smack of jellyfish
herd of    kangaroos
mob of kangaroos
troop of kangaroos
deceit of lapwings
ascension of larks
exaltation of larks
leap of    leopards
leep of    leopards
lepe of    leopards
pride of lions
sault of lions
sowse of lions
troop of lions
lounge of lizards
herd of    llamas
plague of locusts
tidings    of magpies
sord of mallards
stud of mares
richness of martens
horde of mice
mischief of mice
nest of    mice
company    of moles
labor of moles
movement of moles
cartload of monkeys
tribe of monkeys
troop of monkeys
troup of monkeys
herd of    moose
barren of mules
pack of    mules
rake of    mules
span of    mules
watch of nightingales
bevy of    otter
family of otter
raft of    otter
romp of    otter
parliament of owls
drove of oxen
herd of    oxen
span of    oxen
team of    oxen
yoke of    oxen (two)
bed of    oysters
company    of parrots
covey of partridges
muster of peacocks
ostentation of peacocks
colony of penguins
crèche of penguins
huddle of penguins
parcel of penguins
rookery    of penguins
nest of    pheasants
nide of    pheasants (on the ground)
nye of pheasants (on the ground)
bouquet    of pheasants (when flushed)
flight of pigeons
flock of pigeons
drove of pigs
herd of    pigs
litter of pigs
farrow of pigs (piglets)
sounder    of pigs (wild pigs)
shoal of pilchards
congregation of    plovers
wing of    plovers
chine of polecats
string of ponies
pod of porpoises
school of porpoises
passel of possum
coterie    of prairie dogs
bevy of quail
covey of quail
bury of rabbits
colony of rabbits
down of    rabbits
drove of rabbits
husk of    rabbits
leash of rabbits
trace of rabbits
trip of    rabbits
warren of rabbits
nest of    rabbits (young)
wrack of rabbits (young)
gaze of    raccoons
nursery    of raccoons
colony of rats
horde of rats
mischief of rats
pack of    rats
plague of rats
swarm of rats
rhumba of rattlesnakes
storytelling of    ravens
unkindness of ravens
crash of rhinocerouses
building of rooks
clamor of rooks
storytelling of rooks
run of salmon
school of salmon
shoal of salmon
bob of seals
colony of seals
crash of seals
harem of seals
herd of seals
pod of seals
rookery    of seals
spring of seals
team of seals
school of shark
shiver of shark
down of    sheep
drove of sheep
flock of sheep
fold of    sheep
hurtle of sheep
trip of    sheep
bed of snakes
den of snakes
nest of    snakes
pit of snakes
walk of    snipes
wisp of    snipes
host of    sparrows
dray of    squirrels
scurry of squirrels
murmuration of starlings
muster of storks
mustering of storks
flight of swallows
bevy of    swans
herd of swans
wedge of swans (flying in a 'V')
flock of swifts
drift of swine
sounder    of swine
spring of teals
ambush of tigers
streak of tigers
knot of    toads
hover of trout
flock of turkeys
brood of turkeys (immature)
bale of turtles
generation of vipers
nest of    vipers
colony of vultures
mob of wallabees
herd of    walruses
pod of walruses
pack of    weasels
sneak of weasels
gam of whales
herd of    whales
pod of whales
school of whales
plump of wildfowl
herd of    wolves
pack of    wolves
rout of    wolves
route of wolves
warren of wombats
fall of    woodcocks
descent    of woodpeckers
herd of    yaks
herd of    zebras
zeal of    zebras

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