Why Is a Group of Owls Called a Parliament? (Complete Guide)

A parliament of owls up close

It is quite rare to see a group of owls, which gives these already fascinating creatures an extra air of mystery and wonder. Owls are often thought to live alone because they are mostly active at night and fly silently. 

Rarely do large groups of owls congregate, but when they do, it’s a sight to behold that never fails to amaze lucky observers. But what are these gatherings of owls called?

Many different names are used to refer to groups of owls, each with its own symbolic meaning and history. Read on to discover everything you need to know about groups of owls.

What Is a Group of Owls Called?

Three owls perched on a branch

A parliament is the most common term used to refer to a group of owls. Meanwhile, wisdom, congress, hooting, and stare are some less commonly used names. When in flight, a group of owls is often referred to as a silence of owls — a nod to their incredible ability to remain silent when flying.

These varying names add to the mystery surrounding these enigmatic beings. Each of these terms reflects different beliefs and attributes associated with owls in folklore.

Here’s a fascinating video exploring the remarkable silent flight of owls:

Experiment! How Does An Owl Fly So Silently? | Super Powered Owls | BBC

Why Is a Group of Owls Called a “Parliament”?

Many of the collective nouns used to refer to groups of birds originated in the Middle Ages. During this period, people observed birds and came up with creative collective terms based on their unique traits and behaviors.

Many different cultures have held the belief that owls, with their mysterious and wise demeanor, possess extraordinary intelligence and wisdom.

Because owls have come to symbolize wisdom and careful deliberation, the term parliament has become a widely used collective noun pertaining to a group of owls.

Interestingly, it is also a metaphor for the widespread belief that groups of owls meet regularly to deliberate on pressing issues, much like a legislative body.

Although the term has its roots in the Middle Ages, it is also possible that it was popularized further by C. S. Lewis’s book series, The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis used the term to describe a gathering of owls in his tales, and it caught on with readers of all ages.

The term gained notoriety and became widely used in mainstream culture as a result of The Chronicles of Narnia’s enormous success.

Other Names for a Group of Owls

A flock of owls

While parliament is the most common term for a group of owls, there are many interesting alternatives pertaining to the same thing.

One of these alternative names is wisdom, highlighting the bird’s long-standing association with wisdom and insight.

Moreover, the term ‘hooting’ refers to the distinctive sounds made by owls, while the term ‘stare’ alludes to the intense gaze of their eyes. These two are also used from time to time.

Additionally, a ‘sagaciousness’ of owls also refers to the same thing. This term is deeply rooted in their reputation as wise creatures.

Furthermore, the term ‘stooping’ is also used to describe the group, paying homage to their style of rapidly swooping their prey.

Other unique collective nouns for owls include a bazaar, diss, eyrie, looming, and nest.

Each of these collective nouns provides a fascinating take on the traits, actions, or symbolism connected to groups of owls, adding to the mystique and appeal surrounding these remarkable birds.

What Is a Group of Baby Owls Called?

A group of baby owls is often referred to as a brood of owlets. The term owlet is commonly used to refer to a baby or owl hatchling.

Although owls prefer to live alone, as owlets, they stay with their parents until they are strong enough to fend for themselves.

‎How Many Owls Are in a Flock?

A group of owls walking on the grass

Some owl species are known to roost together in small groups and have even been spotted flying as a flock. A flock of owls is typically thought to consist of 3 to 5 birds, depending on the species.

Barn owls and short-eared owls are two species that frequently congregate in small groups. Small groups of burrowing owls have also been known to nest together.

It’s worth noting that not all owl species engage in flocking behavior. Most owls are more solitary by nature and prefer to either hunt alone or with their mate.

However, some owl species may gather in loose groups or communal roosts, particularly during the non-breeding season or in regions with an abundance of food sources.

Why Do Owls Flock Together in Large Groups?

Despite their solitary nature, owls will occasionally congregate in large flocks for various reasons. One possible reason is the abundance of prey.

During times when there is ample prey availability, owls usually gather in large groups to increase their chances of catching prey.

Moreover, flocking offers some protection, enabling owls to fend off potential predators as a group.

Another factor is communal roosting, which occurs when owls gather in groups to share warmth and preserve energy. This is more common during non-breeding seasons or in colder locations.

Furthermore, flocking can help owls communicate with one another and share information about food sources, threats in the area, and ideal places to build their nests.

When Do Owls Flock Together?

Crows flocked together

Although owls usually live alone, there are some situations in which they may gather as a flock.

During the non-breeding season, owls can temporarily gather in groups, especially during the colder months when food is limited or in areas where there is plenty of it.

This is something that I have observed whenever I visit my uncle’s countryside farm during the winter season. I would usually see a group of about 3 to 5 Barn Owls congregating on the trees near the back of my uncle’s house.

They would wait for the rodents to come out, and they would capture their prey as a flock. This was quite an unusual sight, as I was always used to seeing them hunt individually during other periods of the year.

Some owl species may also group together in loose flocks during migration to their wintering habitats.

Overall, food supply, climate, and species-specific behaviors can all affect when and for how long owls gather in flocks.

Did you learn anything new from this guide? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think about the different names used to refer to a group of owls. You can also ask any questions that you may have about these groups of night creatures.

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