As I considered which species to focus on for this week's collective nouns feature, one obvious candidate stepped forward when a small flock of tiny yellow-green finches posed at eye level close to the path between Wildlife Lookout and South Hide. I regularly see flocks of siskins feeding in the tops of alders, prizing seeds from the trees' tiny cones, but it's rare to get a good close view, which offered perfect photographic opportunities.

But, what do you call a flock of siskins? Despite a quick Internet search, it appears that there is no definitive answer to that question. I couldn't find a collective noun for siskins, other than someone-else's blog which suggested a squabble of siskins. I guess they are referring to the constant chattering of a busy feeding flock. 

While there may not be a collective noun for siskins, there are a few for the family of birds that they belong to: finches. Perhaps the most familiar of these is a charm of finches, a term more frequently used for the closely related goldfinch (photo by Clare Carter).

  

I like to think that the term charm relates to the golden wing bar or colourful plumage that makes the goldfinch one of the UK's prettiest birds, but it's more likely that it's a derivation of the Old English word c'irm, which refers to the delightful twittering calls of a flock. Either meaning of charm could equally apply to the gorgeous siskin. In fact, one collective noun for goldfinches is the modern version of c'irm, a chirm of goldfinches.

Another collective noun for finches that I think perfectly fits siskins is a trembling of finches, because whenever you watch a feeding flocks the birds are are constantly in motion. What's more, when an argument breaks out, or courtship starts, you'll regularly see them fluttering, or trembling, their wings. Such behaviour is a key part of the communication between individuals. The term, a troubling of goldfinches may also refer tot his behaviour.

The female siskin is paler but equally attractive

I'd love to hear from you if know of any other collective nouns for finches, or if you have a favourite collective noun that you'd like me to feature.

Anonymous