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What is the book about?





Following is a summary of the references to birds and avian terms that are dealt with in this book:


                                    OT      NT    Total     Chapters
Identified species:          174       0      174     35  36 

Refer to birds in general: 108     47      155     34     

Avian terms:                   61      19        80     33
Total:                           343      66       409






An overview of a number of the personalities and events in the ornithological world, set in the general history of mankind from ancient to modern times.




A concise overview of the processes by which a number of different Bibles developed.




Conducting a study of the thirty-six species mentioned in the Christian Bibles
according to the seven Orders in which they occur, by taking note of the relevant original Hebrew and Greek texts.




“ The Hebrew Canon, as expounded in the Mosaic Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, contains the origins of Ornithology, and the biblical authors concerned,
and not Aristotle, were the original Ornithologists.”




Including 409 biblical references to birds and avian terminology per Bible book and per species for the benefit of scholars and laymen alike.







Chapter 35


35.1 English Alphabetical


35.1.1 Old Testament

‘atalleph              Bats                                       (Chiroptera)
‘agur                    Bulbul, Yellow-vented         
(Pycnonotus xanfhopygos)
barbur                 Cuckoos                               
shalah                 Cormorant                             
(Phalacrocorax carbo)
yonah                   Dove, Rock
                          (Columbia livia)
tor                       Dove, Turtle                         
(Streptopelia turtur)
nesher                 Eagles                                   
nets                     Falcon, Peregrine                  
(Falco peregrinus)
‘anaphah             Herons                                  
dukhiphath         Hoopoe                                 
(Upupa epops)
‘ajjah                   Kite, Black
                           (Milvus migrans migrans)
da’ah                  Kite, Red                               
(Milvus milvus milvus)
ya’anah               Ostrich                                  
(Struthio camelus)
renanim               Ostrich, female                     
(Struthio camelus)
tinshemet            Owl, Barn                             
(Tyto alba)
oah                       Owl, Eagle                           
(Bubo bubo)
qa’ath                  Owl, Little                            
(Athene noctua lilith)
kos                       Owl, Little
                            (Athene noctua saharae)
yanshoph            Owl, Long-eared, N
             (Asio otus)
sa’ir                     Owl, Scops, Eurasian           
(Otus scops scops)
tahmas                Owl, Scops, Pallid                
(Otus brucei)
qippod                Owl, Short-eared                  
(Asio flammens)
qore                     Partridge                               
(Ammoperdrix hayi)
tukkiyim             Peafowl, Indian                    
(Pavo cristatus)
stippor                Plover, Egyptian                   
(Pluvianus aegyptius)
slaw                    Quail                                     
(Cotumix cotumix)
‘orev                   Ravens                                  
sekwi                  Junglefowl, Red
                   (Gallus gallus)
shahaph              Gulls                                     
hasidhah             Storks                                   
dror                     Swallows                               
sis                       Swift, Common                    
(Apus apus)
peres                   Vulture, Bearded                 
(Gypaetus barbatus)
dajjah                  Vulture, Griffon                   
(Gyps fulvus)
raham                   Vulture, Egyptian                  (Neophron percnopterus)
‘oznijah               Vulture, Lappet-faced          
(Torgos tracheliotus negevensis)

35.1.2 New Testament

alektor                 Cock
peristera               Dove
aetos                    Eagle

ornis                     Hen, domestic
koraks                  Raven
strution                Sparrow
trugon                  Turtle Dove
aetos                    Vulture






Chapter 8


8.1 Ostrich

The small family, Struthionidae, consist of only one species, the Ostrich (Struthio camelus). Of all living birds it is the tallest, (males grow up to 2.75 meters tall), and heaviest (males weigh 100-130 kg, 157 kg is the highest recorded weight). They were formerly found in Asia and Southern Europe, including the Middle East, but now they are endemic to Africa
only, with four subspecies according to their geographical distribution. They differ from one another only slightly in size, skin colour, and in the size and texture of their eggs. Because they have no keel on their sternum they are not able to fly. However, they are well adapted to the plains and savannah that they inhabit. Their height, long legs, long neck, and excellent eyesight virtually ensure that they can detect predators a long way off. The ostrich has the largest eyeballs of any bird alive today; each eyeball measuring about 5 cm across.They are the only birds in which the toes have been reduced to two, namely the third and fourth.

They have no uropygial (oil) gland, thus are therefore unable to waterproof their feathers, resulting in them getting soaked by rain or other water. Juveniles of one month and older and adults are able to run at speeds of 50-60 km/hr. This can be kept up for about half an hour, making them the swiftest of all cursorial birds (adapted specifically to run). Wikipedia states maximum speeds of about 97.5 km/hr which seems unlikely. When running at high speed, the wings are spread to assist in balancing, particularly when swerving sharply to side step a pursuer. This was observed by the author of the OT book of Job.

Ostriches occur in dry savannas, semi-desert, and proper desert areas, avoiding grass longer than one meter tall. When not breeding they occur in flocks of 30-40 birds, with hundreds (680 recorded) gathering occasionally at waterholes in deserts although they do not need to drink water. They are omnivorous, with plant material, insects, lizards, fruits, seeds, and nuts included in their diet. They swallow pebbles and sand to assist in the digestion of food, and have a tendency to pick up small bright objects.

In drier years when food is scarcer, males may have a harem of up to three females, but are monogamous in good years. Their nests consists of a scrape of about 3 m in diameter in sandy soils. Clutches of up to 78 eggs have been recorded, with the average being about 13 eggs. Each female lays 3-8 eggs in the communial nest, depending on her age and rank. The eggs are laid in the evening or late afternoon, approximately 48 hours apart. The eggs average 160x130 mm in size, weigh 1.2-1.7 kg, have a thick shell (about 2 mm), and are the equivalent of about 24 domestic chicken eggs. The eggs are the largest of any living bird in actual size. However, in relation to the size of the bird, Ostrich eggs are relatively small. Measured in this way, the Kiwi has the largest egg of any bird. Incubation lasts for 39-53 days, and is done exclusively by the dominant female, the so-called ‘major hen’, and the male. Because the more cryptical color of the female blends in well with the surroundings and thus provides a protective advantage, the female incubates by day and the male at night. Because of the relatively high temperatures in their habitat, eggs are often left partly covered by sand during the day for the sun to keep warm. The major hen, if not able to cover the entire clutch, will move her eggs to the middle of the nest.

Newborn chicks are about 30 cm high, sturdy and precocial (relatively mature and mobile from the moment of hatching). When two family groups meet, the parents fight for the guardianship of the chicks, and the victorious pair make of with both broods. This practice will result in flocks of chicks of 100-300 individuals, with up to 380 recorded. Ostriches take about 3-4 years to mature fully. The habit of feigning death by chicks when they sense danger, have probably led to the misleading fabrication that Ostriches bury their heads in the sand at the approach of danger.

8.2 Utilization by man


Throughout the ages Ostriches have been utilized by humans. Their meat, skin, feathers and eggs have been sought after at different times for different reasons. Ostrich farming was known in ancient Egypt. Both Mesapotamian and Egyptian art show man adorned with Ostrich feathers. Due to their perfect symmetry the Egyptians used them as a symbol of justice. The white wing and tail feathers of the male, because of their softness and unique structure, became so sought after by the fashion world in the eighteenth century that the populations were virtually exterminated in the Middle East and Far North- and South Africa. This led to the establishment of commercial Ostrich farms. The first of such modern operations was set up in 1833 in Oudshoorn, a village on the plains between the Auteniqua and Swartberg (Black Mountain) mountain ranges in the Cape Province of South Africa. Soon others followed in Algeria, Australia, and elsewhere. The industry collapsed after World War I, but about 90,000 domesticated birds have remained in South Africa, from which high quality leather is produced.

Other than their obvious nutritional value, the egg shells have been utilized in the manufacture of simple bracelets and necklaces by many African peoples. Until very recently, the Bushman living in the wild areas of Southern Africa used them extensively as receptacles for carrying water with them, and the storing of water underground for later use.

The biblical authors had probably known the subspecies Struthio camelus syriacus, that inhabited the Syrian and Arabian deserts until the beginning of the twentieth century, ‘but after the First World War the proliferation of firearms, coupled with the availability of motorized transport, led to the devastation of populations and virtual extinction of the subspecies by 1941. The last record was of an individual found drowning in Jordan in 1966.’ (Del Hoyo, Vol 1, p 82). In 1973, eighteen Struthio Camelus chicks were introduced into the southern Negev desert in Israel. They are bred in the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve.

8.3 Biblical references

In Biblical times Ostriches were common residents in Africa and Arabia. The Assyrians used ostrich-egg cups as far back as 3000BC. In the Roman Empire, roasted Ostrich was served at feasts, and their physicians are known to use Ostrich fat as a drug. When the Ostrich is mentioned in OT Hebrew, the word “ya’anah” is used, with “bat ya’anah”, meaning “daughter of Ostrich”, occurring several times, and probably reffering to the females of this family.

The date of the book Job is unknown, with 400 - 600BC being a popular estimate. In Job 38-40 God is indicating his majesty to Job by using examples from nature. In Job 39:13-18 the behavior of the female Ostrich (Hebrew: renanim), is described in detail, and it is clear that the author had observed the bird correctly. A reference to the apparent harsh treatment of the chicks by the female is found in Lam 4:3 as well. In Is 43:20 the Ostrich is pictured as praising God for an abundant season in the desert.

In Is 13:21, Is 34:13 and Jer 50:39, the Ostrich is associated with the desolation and loneliness of ruins and death. The voice of the Ostrich, which is described as a deep booming sound, similar to that of a lion at long distance, is used in Micah 1:8 to describe the cry of a mourner in deep distress. In Job 30:29 he describes his loneliness by stating that the Ostriches are his only friends.

Ostriches are known to eat virtually anything. Normally their diet would include plants, grass, berries, seeds, succulent plants, small reptiles, and insects, It is therefore not surprising to find the Ostrich listed under the ‘unclean birds’ in Lev 11:16 and Deut 14:15. Small stones are swallowed and kept in the gizzard to assist in the digestion process. They are attracted by shining objects, and this has lead to the belief, as mentioned by Shakespeare for example, that they can digest metal.






In July of 1999AD, I visited the Holy Land as a Christian pilgrim.

The worth of this visit was twofold:

Firstly, the text of the Bible which I was reading and studying since childhood was to a large extent replaced by real images and experiences.

Secondly, it stirred in me the longing to return and explore the birdlife of the region. In the meantime, I involved myself in studying undergraduate Biblical Hebrew for three years from 1998 to 2000. The opportunity to fulfil my dream arose much sooner than I had though, as I was given the opportunity to visit Israel again in March/April 2000.

This time around, my good friend and fellow birder at the Rustenburg Bird Club, in the North-West Province of South-Africa, Lesley Ryan, accompanied me. We had the privilege of travelling 3000 km at our own will, visiting virtually all the worthwhile locations from a birding point of view, and experiencing the country and its people first hand. As I observed the country and its birdlife, I became more and more convinced that the birds of my Bible were very special, and that my knowledge on the subject was extremely limited.

This prompted me to search my Bible for references to birds, and the exercise in turn resulted in me realizing that the subject was a fascinating, but also an extremely complex one. As I discovered more and more interesting, and even mind-boggling, facts, dilemmas, and unsolved mysteries, the urge to share my findings with others began to emerge.

The idea to write this book started taking shape, and I returned to Israel from November 2000 to February 2001, and using Jerusalem as my base, gained further information and insights.