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What Is A Group Of Owls Called? The Reasons Behind It

Barred Owls

Owls are fascinating birds known for their distinctive hooting calls and nocturnal habits. But did you know that a group of owls has a special name?

Namely, a group of owls is called a parliament. There are also other names, like congress, stare, and hooting, but they are less common.

There are no scientific reasons behind why they acquired that name, but we can speculate.

FYI: Do Groups of Birds Really Have Their Collective Nouns (And Meanings)?


What is a Group of Owls Called?

A group of owls is most commonly called a parliament, less commonly a congress, stare, or hooting, all of which are related to owls’ characteristics.

Speaking historically, most collective nouns for animals and birds can be traced back to Books of Courtesy in the Middle Ages. These described how a noble should live and talk, including how to express groups of animals.

A “stare” of owls refers to the birds’ piercing gaze and their ability to remain motionless for long periods of time as if staring at something intently. This is also a reference to the fact that owls are nocturnal birds, and their large eyes are adapted to see in low light.

Pair of Spotted Owls

Photograph © Greg Lavaty

A “hooting” of owls refers to the birds’ distinctive vocalizations, which are often described as hoots or hooting calls. Interestingly, a group of owls in flight is called a “silence”. This is because of their ability to fly silently without creating much noise, giving them a huge advantage when sneaking up on their prey.

There are also collective nouns for specific owl species. For example, a group of Barn Owls is called a stable, and a group of Snowy Owls is often referred to as a blizzard.

It’s worth noting that, similarly to “parliament”, these terms are not commonly used in everyday language and they’re more likely to be found in literature, poetry, or ornithology books.


Why is a Group of Owls Called a Parliament?

In the Middle Ages, it was believed that birds gather in groups and flocks to discuss important matters. Owls, seen as symbols of wisdom and intelligence in many cultures, were no exception.

The most famous example is that in Ancient Greece they were the symbol of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom and Strategy. The metaphor of a parliament of owls is based on the idea that owls, seen as wise and intelligent creatures, gather to deliberate important matters, similarly to human assemblies.

As already mentioned, the saying itself dates back to the Middle Ages but it likely gained its popularity thanks to C. S. Lewis’s book series The Chronicles of Narnia, where he referred to a group of owls as a parliament.

The books became rather popular amongst both kids and adults, which is why this specific phrase has stuck and become well known.


How Often Do Owls Flock Together In Groups?

It is generally agreed that at least three owls need to be together for it to be considered a flock. Owls are quite solitary creatures and don’t usually flock together in groups.

They are territorial and tend to live and hunt alone or with their mate. Sometimes they can be seen with other family members until they reach their independence. That makes seeing a group of owls quite rare.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

A few species occasionally form small flocks that can include family members or other owls from the same species.

Overall speaking, they can form groups outside of the breeding season so they can better protect themselves from predators or keep each other warm during the cold months.

It is speculated that they also share information about food sources and nearby threats and predators. During the breeding season, they live in pairs.


Frequently Asked Questions

What do you call a collection of owls?

A collection of owls is called a parliament, but less commonly it’s also known as a stare, hoot, or congress.

Is a group of owls called a hoot?

A group of owls can be called a hoot, but it is less common. It refers to the distinctive hooting call the Owls make.

What is a parliament of owls?

A parliament of owls refers to a group of owls seen traveling or being together.


Most collective nouns for animals and birds originate from the Middle Ages, more specifically, from the manuals written for nobles so they can learn how to behave and talk. These terms are often tied to the given species’ characteristics.

As such, a group of owls is commonly called a parliament of owls, referring to their perceived intelligence and the belief that they decide on important matters, similar to what happens during human assemblies.

This saying got popularized thanks to C. S. Lewis’s book series The Chronicles of Narnia, where he referred to a group of owls as such.

Other common names used to describe a group of owls are hoot, stare, and silence.

About the Author

Heleen Roos

Heleen has loved the outdoors and nature since childhood and has always been fascinated with birds, leading her to research more about them. She has accumulated a lot of knowledge about their behaviors and habits through birdwatching tours and her own explorations. Her goal is to share the most interesting and useful facts about them.

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