(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Birds of the Bible"

From the collection of the 






m 



o Prelinger 
v JJibrary 
t p 



San Francisco, California 
2007 




HAWK 



STRATTON-PORTER 



'Doth the hawk -fly by thy wisdom?" 



BIRDS OF THE IBLE 



Gepe Straitor)-Porter 




CINCINNATI : JENNINGS AND GRAHAM 
NEW YORK: EATON AWE> MAINS 

r 



COPYRIGHT, 1909, 
BY JENNINGS AND GRAHAM 





TO MY MOTHER, MARY STRATTON 



Books by 
GENE STRATTON-PORTER 

THE SONG OF THE CARDINAL 

FRECKLES 

WHAT I HAVE DONE WITH BIRDS 

AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW 
A GlRL OF THE LlMBERLOST 

BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 





CONTENTS 



I. THE TIME, 
II. THE PLACE, 

III. THE BIRDS OF THE POETS, 

IV. THE BIRDS OF " ABOMINATION,' 
V. THE DOVE, 

VI. THE EAGLE, 
VII. THE SPARROW, 
VIII. THE OSTRICH, 
IX. THE COCK AND HEN, 
X. THE HAWK, 

XI. THE QUAIL AND PARTRIDGE, 
XII. THE BITTERN, 



13 
71 
111 
145 
195 
213 
235 
249 
279 
303 
317 
331 



8 


CONTENTS 


XIII. THE SWALLOW, 


343 


XIV. THE PEACOCK, 


359 


XV. THE STORK, 


381 


XVI. THE RAVEN, 


395 


XVII. THE PELICAN, 


409 


XVI1L THE PIGEON, 


423 


XIX. THE CRANE, 


441 


XX. THE OWLS, 


451 





LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



"DOTH THE HAWK FLY BY THY WISDOM?" 
"LET THE WATERS BRING FORTH ABUNDANTLY." 
DETAIL OF SKULL, NECK, AND WING CLAW. 
DETAIL OF FOOT AND TAIL. 

"THE STORK IN THE HEAVEN KNOWETH HER 
APPOINTED TIMES." 

"As BIRDS FLYING DOWN HE SPRINKLETH THE 

SNOW." 
"THE BIRDS OF THE AIR HAVE NESTS." 

"THEN I SAID I SHALL DIE IN MY NEST." 

"FOR EVERY KIND OF BEAST AND BIRD IS TAMED." 

9 



15 

21 
25 

31 

35 
39 

43 

47 



10 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

"THE HAWK DOES NOT EAT THE HEART OF 

ANY BIRD WHICH IT HAS KILLED." 51 

ONE OF THE OLDEST PICTURES IN THE WORLD. 56~57 
ONLY THE CAMERA REPRODUCES BIRD LIFE WITH 

FIDELITY. 63 

"A LAND SHADOWING WITH WINGS." 73 

PALESTINE IN THE TIME OF CHRIST. 76 

YOUNG BLACKBIRDS CRIED ALONG THE JORDAN. 79 

THE BROWN RAIL BROODED AMONG THE WATER 

GRASSES. 85 

THE "LAUGHING JACKASS" OF REMOTE AN- 
TIQUITY. 89 

BABY SHRIKE QUARRELED IN THE THORN 

THICKETS. 95 

GOLDFINCH WERE COMMON. 99 

THE LARK NESTED IN THE FIELDS OF BoAZ. 105 

"I WILL TRUST IN THE COVERT OF THY WINGS." 113 

"I WILL HASTE ME TO A SHELTER." H9 

"A BIRD OF THE AIR SHALL CARRY THY VOICE." 125 

"As A BIRD THAT WANDERETH." 131 

"WlTH HEALING IN HlS WINGS." 137 

WHITE HERON IN A GREEN SETTING. 147 

NIGHT HAWK ON HER NEST. 153 

THE SEA MEW ON WING. 159 

BLUE HERON AMONG WATER GRASSES. 163 

THE "DOCTOR BIRD." 171 

YOUNG "DOCTORS." 175 

OSPRAY APPROACHING NEST. 179 

CORMORANT RISING FOR FLIGHT. 183 

"THEY ARE AN ABOMINATION." 187 

A LITTLE "PHARAOH'S CHICKEN." 191 

"THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE is HEARD." 197 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 11 

"THE TIME OF THE SINGING OF BIRDS." 203 

THE SACRIFICE AT THE BIRTH OF JESUS. 209 

"THY YOUTH IS RENEWED LIKE THE EAGLE 5 S." 215 

"SHE MAKETH HER NEST UPON THE ROCK." 221 

"HER YOUNG ONES ALSO SUCK UP BLOOD." 229 

THE SPARROW'S HOUSE. 237 
"NOT ONE OF THEM IS FORGOTTEN IN THE SIGHT 

OF GOD." 241 

SPARROW NEST IN A GARDEN. 245 

"HE SCORNETH THE HORSE AND HIS RIDER." 251 

"THE AVING OF THE OSTRICH REJOICETH." 257 

"SHE LEAVETH HER EGGS ON THE EARTH." 263 

"SHE IS HARDENED AGAINST HER YOUNG." 269 

OSTRICH ORPHANS. 275 

"As A HEN GATHERETH HER CHICKENS." 281 

EGGS OF A PHEASANT-BANTAM. 289 

BROODING PHEASANT-BANTAM. 297 

A HAWK OF THE HOLY LAND. 305 

"THERE is A PATH WHICH NO FOWL KNOWETH." 311 

"AT EVEN THE QUAILS CAME UP." 319 

"THEY ASKED, AND HE BROUGHT QUAILS." 325 

"A POSSESSION FOR THE BITTERN." 333 
"YEA, THE SWALLOW HATH FOUND A NEST FOR 

HERSELF." 345 

"WHERE SHE MAY LAY HER YOUNG." 349 

YOUNG "BIRDS OF FREEDOM." 353 
"GAVEST THOU THE GOODLY THINGS UNTO THE 

PEACOCKS?" 361 
PEAHEN LAY THEIR EGGS UPON THE EARTH. 369 
PEAHEN WAITING FOR HER NEST TO BE PICTURED. 375 
THE HEBREW WORD "HASIDAH," MEANING KIND- 
NESS, IS TRANSLATED STORK. 383 



12 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

"LlKE THE WINGS OF A STORK." 387 
"IT IS REGARDED AS A CAPITAL CRIME TO KILL 

A STORK." 391 

"WHO PROVIDETH THE RAVEN HIS FOOD?" 397 

"I AM LIKE A PELICAN OF THE WILDERNESS." 411 

YOUNG PELICAN. 415 

HOMEWARD-BOUND PELICANS. 419 
"THEY FALL TO BILLING AND KISSING THEIR 

MATES LOVINGLY." 425 

"IN THE CLEFTS OF THE ROCK." 429 
"THEN SHALL HE OFFER HIS OBLATION OF 

TURTLE DOVES OR YOUNG PIGEONS." 433 

"!F A BIRD'S NEST CHANCE TO BE BEFORE YOU." 437 
"THE CRANE OBSERVE THE TIME OF THEIR 

COMING." 443 

WHITE CRANE. 447 
"THERE SHALL THE GREAT OWL MAKE HER 

NEST." 453 

"THESE YE SHALL HAVE IN ABOMINATION." 457 

"THE SCREECH OWL ALSO SHALL REST THERE." 461 

IN TRAINING FOR THE MIDNIGHT SERENADE. 465 

FINIS. 469 



THE TIME 

"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that 

one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a 

thousand years as one day." PETER. 




ARCH^OPTERYX 



CARR 



"Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving 

creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above 

the earth in the open firmament of heaven." 



CHAPTER I 
THE TIME 

IN order to appreciate clearly what Moses recorded 
in history, what Solomon said in his wisdom, what David 
sang in ecstasy, and what Job cried out in his agony, con- 
cerning the birds, it is necessary first to become familiar 
with the time in the world's history in which these men 
lived, and the country which was their home. The books of 
Moses come first, and they contain references to more 
birds than the writings of any of the other compilers of 
the Bible. 

Although a Hebrew, Moses was reared and educated 
in the court of an Egyptian king, and so had access to 
all the culture that could be afforded by Egypt, then in 
almost as advanced a state of civilization as it is to-day. 
At manhood Moses understood the best methods of agri- 
culture, was skilled in stone-cutting, and almost every 
manual occupation of his time. He was a remarkable 
diplomat, a great teacher, a born leader of men, and a 
soldier. 

From his elevation he saw with clearness of vision how 
bitter was the bondage in which his people, the Hebrews, 
were held by the Egyptians. In describing it he wrote, 
"And they made their lives bitter with hard service, in 
mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the 
field, all their service w^herein they made them serve with 

17 



18 



BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 




rigor." No wonder the Hebrews since have not cared 
for manual labor ! 

So in his intimate position at court, Moses began to 
intercede with the king to be allowed to lead away the 
Israelites to new, unclaimed territory and found a nation. 
But slaves are not easily given up, as witness our own 
Civil War. At last, after Egypt had known more suffer- 
ing than she ever inflicted upon the Hebrews, Moses was 
allowed to start with the Children of Israel on the long, 
indirect route to the Promised Land. After forty years 
of wandering the spot was located, and the Hebrews be- 
gan making homes for their families and regulations for 
their government. 

In considering what Moses had to say of the birds, 
and those he mentioned in the course of compiling laws, 
two things must be taken into consideration. First, 
the people of whom he was the mental and moral guide 
long had been slaves, at hard manual labor. They neither 
had time nor liberty for study and personal improve- 
ment. They were like children, wondering, questioning, 
doubting, but very ignorant. Any law Moses laid down 
for them to follow, or any history he wrote for their 
education, had of necessity to be plain, simple, and minute 
as to detail; not what he, reared with all the opportu- 
nities of the king's court, knew of science or past ages, 
but what they could comprehend. 

Taking this foundation fact into consideration, I do 
not see how the greatest scientist to-day, if he were placed 
in precisely the same circumstances, could write a clearer, 
\truer, history of creation for a people of mental con- 
dition similar to the Hebrews at that time, than the ac- 
counts of the beginning of the earth as recorded by Moses. 



THE TIME 19 

Moses lived fourteen hundred years before the birth 
of Christ, and so, as the great law-giver reckoned time, 
he placed the beginning of the world about three thou- 
sand years before his age. At the rate of development 
from his day to ours we know that this estimate was al- 
together inadequate. Hundreds of thousands of years 
had elapsed since the earth emerged from chaos; no man 
could estimate how many; no man can comprehend in 
these days, much less could he have done so in the time 
of Moses. But he wanted some sort of basis on which 
to found his history, and so he said three thousand years. 
He proved that he himself comprehended that no man 
could gauge time accurately when n__said in addressing i 
the Almighty, "For a thousand years in Thy sight are) 
but as yesterday, when it is past, and as a watch in the/ 
night." 

After the birth of Christ, Peter referred to this in 
a way which showed that the thought of Moses was very 
clear to him, and he sought to emphasize it to men of 
his day, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, 
that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and 
a thousand years as one day." Since no one has been 
able to number our days accurately, and it takes a thou- 
sand of our years to make a day with the Almighty, this 
allows all the time necessary for the evolution of the 
earth and the development of plant and animal life. But 
according to this rate of reckoning time our world is not 
yet a week old with the Almighty. 

Moses said, "God created the heaven and the earth." 
In these days every one concedes that creation required 
more time than Moses thought necessary to try to explain 
to the Children of Israel. Science has many theories 



20 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

concerning creation. Once it was believed that the earth 
was flat and stationary, and if you went far enough you 
would fall over the edge. Then it was discovered that 
the world was round, and revolved and rotated. So scien- 
tists were sure that it and all other heavenly bodies were 
great pieces cast from the sun. Then the theory was 
formulated that the sun threw off large rings of incan- 
descent gases, which cooled and formed planets. In other 
words, Jupiter, Mars, Uranus, Saturn, our world, and 
the great bodies were once "hollow globes abandoned by 
the sun." 

As I write, a new theory has been launched, at- 
tended by the usual amount of corroborative figures. 
This idea is that the sun is not the parent of any 
planet, but that all heavenly bodies are formed by the 
meeting of two or more streams of cosmical dust, the 
meeting of which produces a whirling motion around a 
center. These coiling streams are the beginnings of 
planets, which keep on whirling and gathering more dust, 
and at the same time grow compact by contact with the 
resisting forces against which they revolve. All this is 
demonstrated in terms understandable only to those who 
have given the subject a lifetime of study, and figured 
to the last contingency on reams of paper. 

Without doubt there is a man yet to be born who 
will develop a theory even more plausible than any of 
these, and demonstrate it to the least mathematical propo- 
sition. But the more one studies the greater becomes the 
doubt that any man ever will see light who can convince 
the people of his time that he has discovered the origin 
of matter, the process of world formation, and the be- 
ginning of life. This is the most fascinating study pre- 




ARCH^OPTERYX 



CARR 



Detail of skull, neck* and wing claw. 



THE TIME 23 

sented to scientists, but in the end all of them reach a 
dead stop when they face the origin of matter. No scien- 
tist ever has explained it, and so it becomes a great relief 
to fall back upon Divinity and settle the question casually 
as did Moses when he said, "God created." 

Moses taught that in the beginning the earth was with- 
out form and in darkness. All scientists agree with this, 
and give the reasons, which they have no right to assume, 
Moses did not know quite as well as they, because he 
confined his statements to brief outlines, and simplified 
his outlines to the comprehension of his people. He knew 
so much else with which scientists agree, no doubt he un- 
derstood that also. Science teaches that on account of the 
intense heat which existed in the earth in its first form, 
and the extreme cold (estimated at Neptune to be near 
three hundred and sixty-four degrees below Fahrenheit 
zero) into which the heated mass was plunged, great 
clouds of steam were lifted, and formed a surrounding 
body of water, that shut out light and the world was in 
darkness. 

Moses stated that the Almighty ordered that there 
should be light. Scientists write volumes explaining how, 
when the mass of water became too heavy, it fell back 
upon the earthj submerging it in a sea which reached 
almost, if not quite, the boiling point. As the land 
masses cooled they shrank greatly, and the depressions 
formed the beds of seas, while the highest points lifted 
above the water. When the crust and seas cooled, through 
untold periods of time, the vapor was not thrown up, 
and light could penetrate to the earth. 

There is a possibility that Moses recognized that this 
was what had happened, and upon it he based the story 



24 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

of Noah and the ark. Or traditions of such a period in 
the earth's history may have been handed down by stu- 
dents before his time, or there could have been a great 
flood as described, that covered all the then known sur- 
face of the earth. 

Moses said the Almighty commanded the earth to pro- 
duce after its kind, and the waters to bring forth abun- 
dance of life. Science used to teach that carbon, hydro- 
gen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulphur were all 
that were required to produce spontaneous life, and that 
all these elements existed in varying quantities almost 
everywhere and under various temperature and pressure, 
thus accounting for differing forms of life. 

Now there is a new theory of the origin of life, 
called "Panspermy." This claims that spontaneous gen- 
eration is impossible. It asserts as "an immutable law 
that lifeless matter can not be transformed into living 
matter without the aid of living substance." So the 
theory is launched that life is passed from planet to planet 
by the transference of living germs. Like all such propo- 
sitions, this one is figured with the most minute mathe- 
matical precision. It provides that these life germs shall 
be so small as to be invisible, of so little weight that 
they can be pushed across the great airless spaces exist- 
ing between planets with rays of light, and so hardy that 
they will survive for centuries in cold as great as that 
of liquid hydrogen. 

One point upon which Moses and all the scientists 
agree is that animal life originated in the water, and 
developed there for untold time before it appeared upon 
the land; and with different environment took on differ- 
ent forms. While these forms were developing in the 




ARCH.OPTERYX 



Detail of foot and tail 



CARR 



THE TIME 27 

water, in the warm, steaming, half-light on land great 
beds of mosses, marsh plants, and gigantic ferns fifty 
feet in height and with wide-spreading branches were 
growing. As the light grew stronger these fibrous growths 
fell before it, and succeeding ages covered them with up- 
heavals from the waters, washing from the mountains, and 
the eternal sifting that we poetically call "star dust." 
At first thought this would seem to form no considerable 
portion of the earth's surface, but when we remember 
that from the dppfo of a vessel sailing the ocean for a 
thousand miles an average of sixty-three barrels of dust 
can be swept^^we realize that, although imperceptible to 
us, star dust is a factor in surface formation. Now we 
are digging these buried growths from where we consider 
"the bowels of the earth," in a hardened state we call coal, 
and burning it for fuel, but the leaves and mosses that 
come to light imprinted or petrified upon it prove that 
once they were upon the surface. 

This to me is the flaw in Panspermy. These first 
vegetable growths flourished in semi-darkness, while for 
ages previous animal life was developing in the darkened 
waters. The earth never had seen a ray of sunlight or 
moonlight. Thick vapor clouds were all around it. In 
order that Panspermy may prove true, it must be shown 
that it was possible for germs borne on rays of light to 
penetrate this fog and sow the land and water with life. 
The only explanation for this would seem to be that 
these germs were caught in the vapor clouds and fell upon 
the earth in the form of rain. 

Now, as we dig up layers of coal, and the slate and 
rock which go to make the different formations of 
the earth's crust, we find the petrified remains of these 



28 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

first animals that crept from the waters and the beasts 
and birds that evolved from them. In the American 
Museum of Natural History can be seen the "Bronto- 
saurus," a little over fifteen feet tall, and almost sixty- 
seven feet long; the length of the leg bones, in compari- 
son with the spine, proving that the head, neck, and tail 
were serpentine. In the British Museum there is part 
of the skeleton of the "Archseopteryx," and in Berlin a 
complete skeleton. The bird had a tail with twenty long, 
slender vertebrae, a skull with thirteen teeth above and 
three below, each set in a separate socket, feet like our 
birds of to-day, and wings, the third joint of which ended 
in three-fingered claws much longer than the feet, the 
feathers clearly outlined, and the specimen near the size 
of a crow. Our birds have shed their teeth and gradu- 
ally dropped and contracted their tails, until a queer little 
muscular appendage, having only a few very small ver- 
tebrae, fattish substance to hold the feathers and cover 
the oil sac, forms the tail. The two muscle and skin cov- 
ered bones, that we call the third joint, have evolved from 
the long claws of the wing tip. 

Every ancient writer who touched upon natural his- 
tory proved that he knew of the existence of these toothed 
and tailed birds and winged serpents. As these creatures 
existed in the Jurassic Period, lost their tails by the mid- 
dle Cretaceous, and shed the last tooth by the beginning 
of the Tertiary, long ages before the appearance of man, 
it is only reasonable to suppose that our ancestors knew 
of toothed birds just as we do, by finding petrified 
skeletons. The fact remains that the ancients knew, 
for they introduced these species into tradition and my- 



THE TIME 29 

thologv, and even incorporated them in straight attempts 
at the natural history of their own day. 

Pliny described an eagle, of which he wrote: "Lady 
Phcemonae, who was supposed and said to be the daugh- 
ter of Apollo, hath reported that this eagle is toothed; 
with her accordeth Boethus likewise." He also 
wrote in describing the birds of Diomedes: "Toothed they 
are, and they have eyes as bright and red as fire; other- 
wise their feathers be all white. They are like unto the 
white sea mews with a black cop." 

In support of the theory of the serpentine origin of 
birds, Aristotle said, "For they say there are winged 
serpents in Ethiopia." That "they say" undoubtedly re- 
ferred to the statement of Herodotus, who described a 
serpent similar to our water snake: "Its wings not feath- 
ered, but like those of bats." 

Every geological formation which is investigated helps 
to prove these statements concerning the beginning of 
serpent, bird, beast, and vegetable life. They combine 
with other facts of nature to prove that the water did 
"bring forth abundantly" and that the earth yielded 
"after its kind." If you want to believe the theory of 
spontaneous life, that is all right. If you prefer the 
idea of life transference from planet to planet, that is your 
privilege. If either is the origin of life, God is respon- 
sible for it, and He likes to have men develop their brain 
by studying His creations. The point is that I can con- 
ceive no plainer and truer method than that of Moses, in 
which to picture to an enslaved and superstitious people 
the story of the beginning of the world. 

Again, Moses and his contemporaries in the compila- 



30 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

tion of the Bible wrote from their personal knowledge 
and the traditions of their ancestors. They had no author- 
ities to whom to refer, at least they do not mention any, 
as do the writers of their time in Greece and Italy. Aris- 
totle lived over a thousand years after the time of Moses, 
and wrote the first preserved records of bird life. He 
mentioned predecessors, who may have been contempo- 
raneous with Moses; but their work was lost, and as it 
was done in another country and another language, there 
was not even a slight chance that Bible writers had any 
benefit from it. So that the birds mentioned in the Bible, 
and the history of their habits and characteristics, which 
is mostly used as the basis of comparisons of bird life 
with man, form our very earliest records. 

Moses first wrote of the birds when he specified those 
which were not to be used for food, while compiling the 
laws to govern the Hebrews after they had reached the 
Promised Land. As a rule, it is easy to see why he so 
emphatically declared certain birds an "abomination." 
There was a good natural history reason, especially as 
the list stands in the latest and most scholarly translations. 
Other Bible writers accepted these laws of Moses, and what 
they had to say of birds was more in the way of com- 
paring the processes of bird life with man. Solomon re- 
corded that he "spake three thousand proverbs, and his 
songs were one thousand five. And he spake of trees, from 
the cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop 
that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts 
and of fowl, and of creeping things and of fishes." 

Job, in replying to friends who brought him such 
dubious comfort at the time of his afflictions, continued 
that poetical strain in which his whole book is couched 



THE TIME 33 

when he turned to nature for a comparison. He proved 
that he had learned great lessons all around him, and was 
capable of speaking of what he learned comprehensively. 

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee ; 

And the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee ; 

Or, speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee ; 

Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord 

hath wrought this ? 

In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, 
And the breath of all mankind." 

It was Job who indicated that, although chickens were 
unknown in his time, people were eating the eggs of fowls 
of some species w r hen he asked: 

Can that which hath no savor be eaten without salt ? 
Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?" 

King David, who said of himself, "My tongue is the 
pen of a ready writer," unhesitatingly declared: 

I know all the fowls of the mountains : 
And the wild beasts of the field are mine." 

It was David w r ho, in writing of the goodness of the 
Almighty to the Israelites, recorded that 

He rained flesh upon them also as dust, 

And feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea." 

Birds were so plentiful that the Creator enumerated "the 
fowls of the air" as one of the methods of destruction 
which should fall upon the Jews: and the son of Sirach 
wrote in Ecclesiasticus, "As birds flying down he sprinkleth 
the snow r ." 




34 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

People were accustomed to seeing large flocks in mi- 
gration. The birds of interior Africa came up to Bible 
lands, and those found there crossed the Mediterranean, 
each returning when driven by changes of season. Jere- 
miah proved that people of his time knew the birds, and 
spoke of them casually, just as we do, by recording that 
"The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times ; 
and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the 
time of their coming." 

It must have been the remembrance of myriads of 
birds, massed in migration, which was in the mind of 
Isaiah when he wrote that beautiful and poetic line, "As 
birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem. " 
He had seen clouds of birds sweeping the night sky to 
seek the land in which they homed, and he thought that, 
like them, the Almighty would fly to the defense of the 
loved city. 

But when the people had sinned, and the Creator was 
provoked to anger, He warned them that He would de- 
stroy Judah and Jerusalem, and give the carcasses of the 
inhabitants to "the fowls of the heaven." In prophesy- 
ing the doom of Ethiopia, He called upon the birds to 
take part in its destruction. "For thus hath the Lord 
said unto me, I will be still, and I will behold in my 
dwelling place ; like clear heat in the sunshine, like a cloud 
of dew in the heat of harvest, when the blossom is over, 
and the flower becometh a ripening grape, He shall cut 
off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and the spreading 
branches shall He take away and cut down. They shall 
be left together unto the ravenous birds of the moun- 
tains ; and the beasts of the earth : and the ravenous birds 
shall summer upon them, and the beasts of the earth shall 



THE TIME 37 

winter upon them." Hosea said, "As for Ephraim, their 
glory shall fly away like a bird." And because he was 
painting a picture of the distress which should fall upon 
the Israelites for their many sins, one naturally thinks 
of a bird of swift flight, as the swallow. 

The origin of the oft-quoted phrase, "A little bird 
told me," can be found in Ecclesiastes : 

" Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought; 
And curse not the rich in thy bedchamber : 
For a bird of the air shall carry thy voice, 
And that which hath wings shall tell the matter." 

Jeremiah complained, "Mine heritage is unto me as 
a speckled bird, the birds around about are against her." 

Jesus, in illustration of His devotion to His ministry, 
was thinking of the birds when He said: 

' The foxes have holes 
The birds of the air have nests ; 
But the Son of man hath not where 
to lay His head." 

Balaam remembered the secure bird homes he had seen 
among the shelving rocks and on the high mountains when 
he said to the Kenites: 

" Strong is thy dwelling place, 

And thou puttest thy nest in a rock." 

Job had the picture of the happy home-life of a 
pair of brooding birds in mind when, in recounting the 
days of his prosperity, he cried: 

Then I said I shall die in my nest, 

And I shall multiply my days as the sand." 



38 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

A proverb in Ecclesiastes contains these lines : 

"Birds will resort unto their like ; 
And truth will return unto them that practice her." 

Habakkuk, in reproving the Chaldeans for covetous- 
ness, drew on his knowledge of the habits of the birds 
when he gave the warning, "Woe to him that coveteth 
an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest 
on high." 

Throughout the Bible there is constant mention of 
the practices of snaring and netting birds ; some for food, 
some for sacrifice, and some, undoubtedly, for caged pets, 
since James wrote that "every kind of beasts, and of birds, 
and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and 
hath been tamed of mankind." Jeremiah compared the 
civil state of Judah to "a cage full of birds." And he 
exhibited a sense of humor when he did it, for, no doubt. 
Judah did resemble the cage of a dealer in birds, packed 
with many species, rebellious in confinement, and quarrel- 
ing over perching-places or food. 

The Bible makes it quite evident that even in those 
early days people so loved the graceful motion and cheery 
songs of the birds that they constructed rude cages of 
peeled willow wands and confined beautiful feathered crea- 
tures for pets. Job inquired: 

Wilt thou play with him as a bird ? 

Or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?" 

Jeremiah said, "As a cage is full of birds, so are their 
houses full of deceit." Jesus referred to the sale of spar- 
rows, which seemed to have been a common and constant 
practice; and it was He who entered the temple and 
"overthrew the seats of them that sold doves." 



THE TIME 41 

Birds were so numerous Jn those lands in which Bible 
scenes were enacted that undoubtedly they were much 
tamer than those w? know, which for generations have 
been pursued with the smoke and explosion of guns. In 
ancient times they were caught by some sort of lure, or a 
trap, which did not frighten those escaping and make them 
so wild. Those methods really seem more humane. Some- 
times a struggling bird could break a snare or a net; a 
gun is usually fatal. I think the very frequent mention of 
this custom of taking birds in the Bible is due to the fact 
that there is such a wonderful parallel to be drawn be- 
tween a man setting a snare for an unsuspecting bird, to 
capture it, and offering innocent-appearing lures to en- 
tangle people unawares. Over and over, almost every 
Bible writer made these comparisons. 

Isaiah said, "Fear and the pit and the snare are upon 
thee, O inhabitant of the earth!" David promised, "He 
shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler." Solo- 
mon, writing of the lure of the Strange Woman, recorded 
that a man went to her, 

" As a bird hasteth to the snare, 
And knoweth not it is for his life." 

David gave the warning, "Upon the wicked He shall 
rain snares." But he also made the promise, "He shall 
deliver thee from the snare of the fowler." In writing 
a sonnet on the perils of giving surety for the debts of 
another, Solomon twice made use of this illustration: 

My son, if thou art become surety for thy neighbor, 
If thou hast stricken thy hands for a stranger, 
Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, 
Thou art taken with the words of thy mouth, 



42 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, 

Seeing thou art come into the hand of thy neighbor ; 

Go, humble thyself, and importune thy neighbor. 

Give not sleep to thine eyes, 

Nor slumber to thine eyelids, 

Deliver thyself, 

As a roe from the hand of the hunter, 

And as a bird from the hand of the fowler." 

Equally common was the practice of netting not only - 
birds, but animals 0? great size and strength. That 
these nets had to be concealed with great care we gather 
from the wise man who said in Proverbs, "Surely in vain 
the net is spread in the sight of any bird!" Using this 
as an illustration which all of his hearers could compre- 
hend, Hosea, in reproving the wicked, said, "Where they 
go I will spread my net upon them, I will bring them 
down as the fowls of heaven." In illustration of the loss 
of courage of the people, Isaiah said to them: 

'* Thy sons have fainted, 
They He at the top of all the streets, 
As an antelope in a net." 

Most of the methods for taking birds and animals at 
that time were included in the words of Bildad, when he 
reproved poor, suffering Job on the ash heap for trying 
to explain and excuse his condition. 

" How long will ye lay snares for words?" 

"Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, 
And the spark of his fire shall not shine. 
The light shall be dark in his tent, 
And his lamp above him shall be put out, 
The steps of his strength shall be straightened, 



THE TIME 45 

And his own counsel shall cast him down, 
For he is cast into a net by his own feet 
And he walketh upon the tolls, 
A gin shall take him by the heels, 
And a snare shall lay hold on him. 
A noose is hid for him in the ground, 
And a trap for him in the way." 

All these methods for capturing birds are easy enough 
to understand, and to these were added several others of 
such cruel design that they resulted in wholesale slaughter. 
There was the decoy method, by which young larks, doves, 
or quails were taken from the nest, raised by hand, and 
made very tame. These were then hidden in cages of 
wands, and when their notes had attracted large numbers 
of their kind, they were skillfully dropped by arrows of 
concealed bowmen. Still worse was the custom of taking 
a wild pigeon or quail, sewing its eyelids together, and 
binding it in a good location for birds, so that its flut- 
tering and cries would lure large numbers to their death 
through curiosity. 

The birds of the Bible are constantly written of as 
fowl. This is our translation of a Hebrew root which 
means "to attack vehemently." In its original use it 
undoubtedly referred to birds of prey, and not to ,song- 
sters and game birds. It is very probable that the term 
began to be applied to birds which were used for food 
when they first confined them in coops and cages to fatten 
them, near 600 B. C. Aristotle wrote of "domestic 
fowls," in contrast with wild birds, so that the distinction 
was made in his time. But it must be borne in mind that 
these compilers of the Bible meant any bird, and all birds, 
when they said "fowl." However, what they wrote, and 



46 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

the connection in which they recorded it, made their mean- 
ing so clear, their knowledge of bird life so positive, their 
conception of bird habits and characteristics so poetical, 
that with the added knowledge of the centuries lying be- 
tween their time and ours, no man has surpassed them in 
drawing wonderful comparisons between the life of birds 
and human beings. 

Of writers of Greece and Italy most nearly contem- 
poraneous with Bible historians, the oldest was Aristoph- 
anes, the Grecian satirist, who lived 444 B. C. and wrote 
the immortal comedy, "The Birds." But as he was simply 
parodying the extravagance and foolishness of the people, 
by making the birds found a city, and do the vain and 
silly things he wished to ridicule humanity for doing, 
his work has no scientific value. It merely proves that 
half our birds of to-day are known by the same name they 
were then, and have the same habits and characteristics. 

The / 4]ather of the history of birds was TAristotle^ 
who lived 400 B. C., and in all probability he knew Ar- 
istophanes. He wrote in the days of Zechariah, Haggai, 
and Malachi. The bulk of his work is highly regarded 
by scientists, and much, in fact nearly two-thirds of what 
he recorded, proves good natural history to-day. The 
remaining third is a queer and quaint commingling of 
tradition, sayings of augurs and oracles, and sheer imag- 
ination. His ideas of the origin of some species were 
marvelous, but all that he said of bird life was extremely 
interesting. 

He had a very correct idea of the circulation of the 
blood of man, and his physiology. He sustained his points 
by extracts from Synnesis, a physician of Cypress, who 
came near owing the perpetuity of his name to these 




TAMED FALCON 



STRATTON-PORTER 



'For every kind of beast and of bird is tamed." 



THE TIME 49 

quotations; for the remainder of his work was lost. Aris- 
totle also quoted Diogenes of Crete, with whose sayings 
we are familiar; and Polybus, of the island of Cos, whose 
work survives him. 

What Aristotle had to say of animals is less reliable 
than his history of man, which is easily explained by the 
fact that, as a matter of self-preservation, men naturally 
would investigate themselves first, and find the material for 
such study most convenient to obtain. Much of his animal 
history is correct, but the per cent which fails to prove 
true is filled with ideas that seem to us so crude as to 
be wonderful. 

My reason for wishing to introduce a few of these 
superstitions and traditions is to set in sharp contrast 
the natural history of the Bible and that of pagan writers 
of Greece and Rome, of the same days, and even centuries 
later. There is scarcely a bird or a beast mentioned in 
the Bible, either in description or comparison, that is not 
so sanely and accurately used that reference might not 
quite as well apply to our corresponding species of to-day. 

But Aristotle wrote that there were "two kinds of 
lions. One of these has a round body and more curly 
hair, and is a more cowardly animal. The other is of 
longer form, has straight hair, and is more courageous." 
Undoubtedly this described a male and female of the same 
species. He gravely recorded that "horses delight in 
meadows and marshes, and drink dirty water; and if it 
is clean, they first disturb it with their hoofs, and then 
drink it." Any one who has watered a horse at a stream 
or river and has seen the animal wade deeper and deeper, 
thrusting its muzzle further and further out to avoid the 
disturbance caused by its feet, knows what to think of this. 



50 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

He related that sheep produce males or females from 
"the nature of the water which they drink," and 
also that "in Antandria there are two rivers, one of 
which turns the sheep white, the other black; and the 
Scamander appears to make the sheep yellow, wherefore 
some people think that Homer called the Scamander the 
Xanthus." He wrote that "the weasel eats the herb rue 
before it attacks a serpent, for the smell of this herb is 
obnoxious to serpents." 

His explanation of the rapid increase of mice was that 
"in a certain part of Persia the female foetus of the mice 
are found to be pregnant in the uterus of the parent." 

His accounts of caterpillars, butterflies, and fish are 
accurate in parts, because observation of these subjects 
is easier, yet what he wrote contains many amazing state- 
ments. For example, he said that "butterflies are pro- 
duced from caterpillars ; and these originate in the leaves 
of green plants." "The commencement of life in all other 
worms, and in all creatures produced from worms, orig- 
inates in the influence of the sun and wind." "There 
are several kinds of bees; the best are round, small, and 
variegated." "They bring the material for wax from 
the droppings of trees, but the honey falls from the air, 
principally about the rising of the stars, and when a 
rainbow rests upon the earth." "We argue that wax is 
made from flowers, but that the bees do not make the 
honey, but simply collect that which falls." Most quaint 
of all : "It is good for bees to have drones among them, 
for it makes them more industrious." "When the wind 
is high they carry a stone with them for balance." 

There are many quotable things concerning fish, and 
the birth of eels is interesting, for he said that they "orig- 








'g 



S 






THE TIME 53 

inate in what are called the bowels of the earth, which are 
found spontaneously in mud and moist earth." 

Because migration limited the residence of most birds 
to a half year in one place, and the free, wild life they 
lived, they came in for the greatest share of superstition, 
mystery, and fabrication. In fact, the portion devoted 
to birds is so remarkable in its surprises that it is a never- 
ending source of delight to the bird-lover. 

He naively wrote that certain birds were "of good 
color and habit," without in the least indicating what 
the color and habit was; and again he said that others 
were "bad." He described one bird as "faulty, both in 
its color and in its voice." His store of unexpected ad- 
jectives in bird-lore is a delight, as witness these detached 
phrases: "The chlorion is a clever and diligent bird." 
"The elea has an excellent mode of life." He said of 
another: "Its colors are beautiful, its mode of life good, 
and its form elegant;" and again, "It is swift, elegant, 
liberal, fearless, warlike, and a good omen;" or, "It is 
ingenious in providing its substance, though otherwise an 
unfortunate bird." In what manner ingenious, or how 
unfortunate, we are left to surmise. 

He wrote that some people regard the cuckoo as a 
"changed hawk," and quoted the poet Masseus, "that the 
bird which lays three eggs hatches but two of them, and 
brings up but one." He attributed the red rim around the 
eyes of certain birds to the violence of their emotion at 
mating time, and declared that the "hawk does not devour 
the heart of the bird it has killed." He described a bird 
"as large as a bustard which hides its eggs in the skin 
of a hare or fox," and said that the bill of an eagle 
continued to curve as it grew older until the bird died of 



54 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

starvation. He confirmed the story that swans sang; and 
accounted for the number of partridges by explaining that 
they build two nests, on one of which the male broods, and 
the female on the other; and that the male mated with 
all the young females before they left the nest. If any 
Bible writer ever produced any natural history similar to 
this, which is just a few quotations cited at random, I 
have failed to find it. 

Pliny was the next nature writer whose work is pre- 
served. I doubt if any man who ever lived can present 
such a record as a student. While he bathed, a secretary 
read to him or took dictation from him. While he ate, the 
reading continued, while he walked for exercise and when 
he traveled, so that he collected a vast amount of informa- 
tion. His history of the world was finished when he was 
nearly sixty years of age. It is a volume the size of the 
average unabridged dictionary, and really seems to cover 
the known world and to discourse on every topic under the 
sun. We are concerned with volume ten, which is confined 
to the history of birds. This volume, as well as all the re- 
mainder of the book, proves indisputably that what Pliny 
wrote was from reading and recounting almost entirely. 
The times w r hen he affirmed that he made a personal in- 
vestigation, or knew for himself that a thing was true, are 
so few as to be amazing. The whole w r ork is one enormous 
compilation, but vastly interesting, because it was written 
by a Roman old enough to remember when Jesus was 
crucified near Jerusalem. Therefore what he had to say 
of any bird in comparison with what the compilers of the 
Old Testament said is of vast importance. 

Pliny was a Roman of wealth, high position, and had 
access to all the stored learning of past ages. Ranging 




THE GEESE OF MAYDOON 



One of the oldest pictures in the world 




CARR 



j posed to be the -first bird picture. 



THE TIME 59 

from his birth anywhere to fifteen hundred years previous, 
lived Moses, Solomon, Job, and David, and they were studi- 
ous men of wealth and high position. The difference be- 
tween their writings lies in the fact that what Bible his- 
torians record is colored by the truth, sanity, and clear in- 
sight of believers in an Almighty God. What Aristotle, 
Aristophanes, and Pliny wrote is touched with supersti- 
tion, paganism, and the improbable. 

Pliny drew largely on Aristotle, who divided the birds 
into eight principal groups. This seemed too complicated 
for Pliny, so he simplified matters to the last degree and 
made three groups, which he described in "A General 
Division of Fowls." 

"The first and principal difference and distinction in 
birds is taken from their feet ; for they have either hooked 
talons, as Hawks, or round long claws, as Hens; or else 
they be broad, flat, and whole-footed, as Geese, and all 
the sort in manner of water-fowl." 

Pliny first discoursed on the ostrich, and among other 
things said: "Cloven hoofs have they like red deer, and 
with them they fight ; for good they be to catch up stones 
withall, and with their legs they whurle them back as 
they run away, against those that chase them." He next 
described the phoenix, and as this perhaps is the only de- 
scription of the famed bird incorporated in a natural his- 
tory, it is given in full: ^ 

"The birds of Ethiopia and India are for the most 
part of diverse colors, and such as man is hardly able to 
decipher and describe, but the Phoenix of Arabia passes 
all others. Howbeit, I can not tell what to make of him ; 
and first of all, whether it be a tale or no, that there 
is never but one of them in all the world, and the same 



60 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

not commonly seen. By report he is as big as an eagle; 
for color, as yellow and bright as gold (namely, all about 
the neck ; ) the rest of the body a deep red purple ; the 
tail azure blue, intermingled with feathers among of rose 
carnation color ; and the head bravely adorned with a crest 
and pennach finely wrought; having a tuft and plume 
thereupon, right fair and goodly to be seen. Manilius, 
the noble Roman senator, right excellently seen in the 
best kind of learning and literature, and yet never taught 
by any, was the first man of the long Robe, who wrote 
of this bird at large and most exquisitely. He reporteth, 
that never man was known to see him feeding ; that in 
Arabia he is held a sacred bird, dedicated unto the sun; 
that he liveth six hundred and sixty years ; and when he 
groweth old, and begins to decay, he builds himself with 
the branches and twigs of the Cannell or cinnamon, and 
Frankincense trees; and when he hath filled it with all 
sorts of aromatical spices, he yieldeth up his life there- 
upon. 

"He saith, moreover, that of his bones and marrow 
there breeds at first as it were a little worm: which after- 
ward proveth to be a pretty bird. And the first thing 
this new Phoenix does, is to perform the obsequies of the 
former Phoenix late deceased: to translate and carry away 
his whole nest into the city of the Sun near Panchea, and 
to bestow it full deA^outly there upon the altar. The same 
Manilius affirmeth that the revolution of the great year 
so much spoken of, agreeth just with the life of this bird; 
in which year the stars return again to their first points, 
and give significations of times and seasons, as at the be- 
ginning and withall, that this year should begin at high 
noon that very day when the sun entereth the sign Aries. 



THE TIME 61 

And by his saying, the year of that revolution was by 
him showed, when P. Lincinius and M. Cornelius were 
consuls, Cornelius Valerianus writeth, that whiles Q. Plau- 
tius and Sex. Papinius were consuls, the Phoenix flew into 
Egypt. Brought he was hither also to Rome in that time 
that Claudius Caesar was Censor, to wit, in the eight hun- 
dredth year from the foundation of Rome, and showed 
openly to be seen in a full and general assembly of the 
people, as appeared upon the public records: howbeit, no 
man ever made any doubt, but he was a counterfeit Phoe- 
nix, and no better." 

He wrote of the bird "Incendiaria," that it was "un- 
lucky as our Chronicles and Annals do witness, in regard 
of her the city of Rome many a time hath made solemn 
supplications to pacify the Gods, and to avert their dis- 
pleasure by her portend." A sentence further he wrote: 
"But what this bird should be, neither do I know, nor yet 
find in any writer. Some give this interpretation of In- 
cendiaria, to be any bird whatsoever, that hath been seen 
carrying fire either from altar or chapel of the Gods. But 
hitherto I have not found any man who would say di- 
rectly that he knew what this bird should be." This is 
not in the least surprising. He quoted Nigidius concern- 
ing a bird "called Subis, which used to squash eagle's 
eggs." 

He described a number of other fabled birds, and at- 
tached all the current superstition to the history of each, 
even to the account of the barnyard fowl that spoke. 
But, as almost all of the birds described are among the 
list of Bible birds, what is said of them by pagan writers 
will compare much better if used in the chapter contain- 
ing the Bible records of the same subject. 



62 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Aelian, of Italy, published a rather miscellaneous ac- 
count of birds and animals 140 A. D., and in 1228 A. D. 
Albertus Magnus followed with twenty-six volumes, most 
of which are compilations from Pliny and Aristotle. 
Belon, Aldrovardus, Willoughby, Ray, and several others 
followed. Then there came the real founder of orni- 
thology on a scientific basis, the man whose classification 
of half the important species remains unchanged to-day 
Linnaeus. His works were published in 1740 A. D., and 
many revisions have been made. From them down to our 
time the history of ornithology is well known. 

From this brief resume it must be seen that the histo- 
rians of the Bible wrote from their personal knowledge 
of their subjects, and that they knew the birds quite as 
well, and treated of them much more sanely and compre- 
hensively than their contemporaries of other countries, or 
their followers centuries later. Moses spoke in certain 
tones, and while we now know that several of the birds 
he set aside as unclean, according to our first translations, 
were regarded as great delicacies by the people of other 
nations at the same time, as a whole, we easily can rec- 
ognize our birds of the same species to-day in what he 
wrote of his. 

Nothing gives greater emphasis to the important 
place birds always have occupied in history than the fact 
that one of the oldest pictures in the world has birds as 
its subject. It is a fragment of a fresco taken from a 
tomb at Maydoon, and now in the museum at Cairo. This 
picture was painted three thousand years before Christ 
and near two thousand years before the time of Moses. 
Six geese are represented, four of which are so accurately 
done, and in all those cycles the change in species is so 



THE TIME 65 

small, that they readily can be classified as the ancestors 
of two species known to-day. 

Later the paintings, frescoes, and sculptures of Egypt 
and Assyria were filled with bird figures, but the work 
was so poorly done, or else the birds so stiffly convention- 
alized, that it is a difficult matter to decide whether they 
are eagles, hawks, or vultures. All of these abounded, and 
well might have been used in symbol writing to portray 
strength, endurance, penetration, or rapacity. 

Artists of to-day are setting ornithologists the same 
study. They attempt to illustrate articles with drawings 
of birds, without having seen a naked and ofttimes no 
living bird of the species, and so proper contour is 
lost. Knowing absolutely nothing of anatomy, habits, 
or characteristics, they attempt to reproduce birds and 
make amazing caricatures. In the first place, many 
artists go to museums and draw from a dried skin 
stretched over a wire frame and stuffed. They might 
equally as well attempt to use mummies as subjects from 
which to reproduce living men; for it is quite as lifelike 
to be shriveled as abnormally rounded out. If one of 
these men ever does go to a zoological garden and attempt 
the poor substitute of a confined bird to illustrate the 
pose and characteristics of a free one, he begins to draw 
in ignorance of the first great principle of feathering. 
There are hills and hollows, and a great deal of shape 
to the anatomy of a bird. One only has to pick up and 
examine any plucked fowl in the market-place to see that 
it did not have feathers all over it, and that what it had 
were of different sizes, and set closely in some places, wide 
apart in others. Utterly oblivious of these facts, books 
and periodicals are filled with birds feathered all over 



66 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

equally, and almost as round as a ball in shape. The only 
bird pictures ever made with accuracy were done with a 
camera, which truly reproduces life. 

The records of Moses began four thousand years be- 
fore Christ, and in our day nineteen hundred and nine 
years afterward five thousand nine hundred and nine 
years in all there is no very great change in the hawk, 
the eagle, and the vulture. This leads us to wonder how 
many years before the time of Moses it was that there were 
birds with twenty vertebra? in their tails and sixteen teeth in 
their jaws; and how many years previous to that the first 
serpent, from which all birds are descended, crept from 
the water and began life upon land and among the trees. 
Has any one rightly reckoned the age of the earth? 

Much has been written concerning the Mistakes of 
Moses. If that title had been the Mistakes of Habakkuk 
or Job it would have attracted less attention. There is 
so much in striking alliteration. I have found several mis- 
takes I shall mention as they occur in the ornithology of 
the great law-giver, but I discovered one to overshadow 
them completely in the writings of one of the best-informed 
ornithologists that ever lived the author of a dictionary of 
birds, not a pioneer, but a man of our time having access 
to everything produced to the present day. He writes 
that it is his opinion that "white geese were produced by 
the wicked and inhuman practice of plucking feathers 
from gray geese while alive, for pillows." He explains 
that a dark feather prematurely pulled from a bird comes 
back white. If white geese originated in "the wicked and 
inhuman practice of plucking gray ones alive," I want to 
know who plucked the blue herons, brown owls, and gray 
gulls to produce these white species. Also, who plucked 



THE TIME 67 

the black bear, red foxes, and gray rabbits to produce 
white species among mammals? 

The Mistakes of Moses do not appear nearly so great 
or so numerous as one. would expect from the title. They 
look so very small when compared with those of writers who 
have had the benefit of centuries more of enlightenment 
than he. Then, too, it must be remembered that Moses has 
been translated, revised, and re-edited many times without 
his knowledge or consent. The beauty of the work of any 
writer is inevitably marred in translation to another lan- 
guage. A whole English sentence is required to express 
a thought covered by one small Hebrew word. The point 
I wish to make was forcefully expressed centuries ago by 
the grandson of Jesus, the son of Sirach, in a preface 
to his translation of the book of Ecclesiasticus, now incor- 
porated in many modern Bibles. "For things originally 
spoken in the Hebrew have not the same force in them 
when they are translated into another tongue ; and not 
only these, but the law itself, and the prophecies, and the 
rest of the books, have no small difference when they are 
spoken in their original language." 

The greatest difference that I can see between Moses 
and the scientist is that there is a time when science comes 
to a dead stop. 

It has its theories, but they all end when they reach 
the origin of matter and life. An ably written article 
on Panspermy, just published as I write, closes with these 
words. "Even as of the billions of pollen grains that 
may be wafted by the wind over the meadows of the earth 
only one may germinate and flourish into a tree, so of 
the incalculable germs with which each living world prod- 



68 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

igally sows the unfathomable depths of space, only a single 
spore may swim into the embrace of a fallow world. 

"The impression to be drawn from this beautiful con- 
ception of the transmission of life from star to star is 
that of the unit}^ of all living creatures. Granted that 
the universe is studded with planets in all stages of evo- 
lution, from gaseous incandescence to ripe . and dying 
spheres, organic life must be as eternal as matter and en- 
ergy. Somewhere a world is always waiting for a primal, 
living unit. Life has ever existed and will ever exist. 
Whence sprang that first germ which fertilized the first 
cold planet, we shall never know. We have long since 
abandoned all search for the origin of energy ; so must 
we abandon the hopeless task of tracing to its source the 
river of universal life." 

That is always the end of all scientific investigation. 
When at last it reaches the hearts of the things we want 
to know, how matter and life originated, it comes to a 
granite wall. A wall so long no one ever can go around 
it, so high no one can surmount it, so thick it is impene- 
trable, and there science may search, climb, and batter 
until it is worn out, but the answer never comes. Here 
it is worlds of satisfaction to have Moses intervene and 
say, "God created." 

We love to believe that He did, because such belief 
throws us upon instinctive impulse. For there is an 
instinct in all men, an inborn impulse to mate, to build 
shelter, to fight for supremacy, to make music, to dance, 
and to worship. In his hour of dire extremity the most 
hardened man startles at the sound of his own voice im- 
ploring God for help. He can not save himself, therefore 
he cries into space for rescue by the Unseen. 



THE TIME 69 

This impulse to worship is not found in civilized na- 
tions alone, it is a universal thing. No savage band 
ever has been discovered so benighted that it did not wor- 
ship something, no matter how crude. A bright thing, as 
the sun, an inanimate thing cut from wood or stone, a 
living thing, as a tree or an animal, or an element, as the 
wind, will serve; but worship all men do. No nation ever 
has been able to face calmly the thought of annihilation. 
The protest against being wiped out utterly is inborn and 
universal. That grand old pessimist, Omar Khayyam, ex- 
pressed himself thus: 

" Said one among them, surely not in vain, 

My substance from the common earth was ta'en, 
And to this Figure moulded to be broke, 
Or trampled into shapeless earth again." 

The man who above all others busied himself with the 
mistakes of Moses made this point still clearer. Standing 
beside the grave of a loved brother, in an hour of heart- 
rending grief, he said, "In the night-time of despair Hope 
sees a star, and listening Love can hear the rustle of a 
wing." The star that he saw in his hope was the same 
that led the children of Israel, and the wing he heard 
was the shelter under which they took refuge. 



THE PLACE 

'Ah, the land of the rustling of wings, 
Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia." 

ISAIAH. 



CHAPTER II 
THE PLACE 

WHEN so sane a historian as Isaiah designated a na- 
tion as "The land of the rustling of wings," we feel that 
the birds must have been as numerous as any one other 
form of creation worth considering. This statement is con- 
firmed by Pliny, who several centuries later wrote that birds 
flew into Italy in clouds from across the sea; and that at 
times, weary with winging their long course, they settled 
in such numbers upon sailing vessels as to sink them. 

The lands of the Bible are Canaan, lying along the 
east end of the Mediterranean Sea, in a narrow hilly and 
mountainous strip ; then the valley of the Jordan, through 
which flowed the sacred river in which Jesus was baptized; 
another strip of hills and mountains; and Syria adjoin- 
ing, which shortly stretched away into desert. 

At the southeast of the sea lay Arabia, the Sinai Pen- 
insula, across which Moses led the Hebrews in a great 
circular journey of three times the length necessary to 
have reached their destination in a straight line. The 
southern part of this country is hilly and mountainous, 
and the northern a wide desert that runs almost to the 
sea, where Canaan and Egypt touch in a narrow strip 
along the coast. The Gulf of Akaba lies on the east, 
stretching half the length of the country ; the Red Sea 
on the south, and the Gulf of Suez forms over half of 
the western boundary, Egypt the remainder. 

75 



76 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Egypt adjoins these countries south of the sea. There 
is hilly land along the Nile, fertile plains, and then the 
desert. That desert which the Egyptians tell you 
stretches away "a march of a thousand days." And, as 
if evolved with the earth from the beginning, the pyra- 
mids stand and challenge us to tell of the time when 
they were not; and through the ages the Sphynx main- 
tains unbroken silence. 

While we marvel at these piles of stone, antiquities 
of a thousand years at the time of Moses, as if to jest 
with us from some innermost recess, time heaves out to us 
a vessel of porcelain, and from the brush-strokes on its 
bottom a Chinese savant glibly reads, "For lo, the spring 
is here !" Eternity seems to be not a place toward which 
we are traveling, but a time from which we came, when 
we face this evidence, that however old Egypt may be, 
even in the time of Moses she was young compared with 
China and India, who previous to those days were pos- 
sessed of the secret of manufacturing vessels of porce- 
lain and decorating them with the essence of poesy. 

Egypt, Arabia, and Canaan are the locations in which 
the scenes of Bible history were enacted. Here is the very 
earth trodden by Moses, Solomon, David, Isaiah, Jesus, 
and John. These are the mountains they climbed, the 
lakes where they fished, the rivers in which they bathed. 

Most of the action of the Bible takes place in Canaan. 
This little strip of country, one hundred and forty miles 
in length, and averaging from sixty to one hundred miles 
in width, lying along the east end of the -Mediterranean^ 
had greater variation in climate, soil, vegetation, plant 
and animal life than any other of the same size in the 
whole world. Any swift bird could fly the length or 



, 



PALESTINE, 



IX THE TIME OF CHRIST 

English Miles 









~ } 




r 



THE PLACE 77 

breadth of the country in a few hours, yet here lay the 
fertile Jordan Valley, one thousand three hundred feet 
below sea level; here rose the snow-capped ranges of Her- 
mon and Lebanon from two to three thousand feet above. 
Between these extremes could be found rich vallevs, 
broad, fertile plains, highlands, foothills, and low moun- 
tains. David described the natural springs of that land: 

He sendeth forth springs into the valleys ; 

They run among the mountains ; 

They give drink to every beast of the field ; 

The wild asses quench their thirst. 

By them the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, 

They sing among the branches." 

There were cold mountain rivulets, dashing through rocky 
gorges; peaceful rivers crossing the plains and valleys; 
the great salt sea lying in the interior, the Mediterra- 
nean on the west, and the desert stretching away on 
the east. 

Over all a tropical sun streamed, its rays broken by 
mountains and rank forests; while cool wind from the sea 
alternated with scorching sirocco from the desert. The 
whole country was covered with such trees and vegetation 
as these conditions would induce. In this amazing va- 
riety of soil and climate many plants elsewhere unknown 
developed, and birds native to this country alone. 

A collared turtle-dove originated around the Dead Sea ; 
a new species of grackle rocked on the rushes of Merom; 
a night-hawk unlike any other sailed over valley and plain, 
and in great numbers the exquisite little sun-bird darted 
among sweet flowering spice-bushes. 

One readily can see how the writers of the Bible in 



78 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

recording life as they lived it under those geographical 
conditions, would give to the actors of the book a setting 
which would seem familiar to readers of all time any- 
where on the face of the globe. So true to all lands 
everywhere are those pictures of life where one day's 
journey led from snow-capped mountain to fertile valley; 
from farming, fishing, and carpentering to the wander- 
ing life of the tent tribes; and from the grandest court 
of an earthly king to the wilderness. 

Rank vegetation crept everywhere after moisture. 
There were rushes, water-grasses, and flags growing all 
along the rivers and around the lakes. The glittering black 
birds rocked on the sunlit rushes; among them the herons 
searched for frogs ; the brooding rails nested in silence, 
and the bitterns boomed in the night watches. Frogs 
croaked along the shores, the crocodile and alligator 
splashed in the water, and the rhinoceros raised from its 
wallow and waddled off across country in search of foliage 
for food. 

Along the Nile and up and down the Jordan the laugh- 
ing kingfisher chuckled in its noisy flight, one of the 
veriest birds of history, amused, no doubt, at how it had 
fooled countries older than these. For of all the birds 
known to the most ancient world, none so had bewildered 
students and thinkers as the kingfisher. They knew the 
old, they knew the young, but never a nest or brooding 
mother could they find, search as they might. For these 
birds had followed the seacoast and had come down from 
Greece to perplex these people also. Their Grecian name, 
alceon, as we translate halcyon, was brought with them. 

The Greeks disliked defeat, and so when they were 
compelled to give up anything they went romancing and 



THE PLACE 81 

manufactured something to fit the case. They called this 
cheerful habit mythology, and as it was so much easier 
to imagine things than to dig to the root of matters, 
their mythology was almost as copious as their history. 
When they failed to find the nests of these birds in the 
trees or on the land, it became evident to them that 
brooding must take place upon the water. As this seemed 
rather risky business, even to the Greeks, they decided 
that the birds nested at the time of the summer solstice, 
when the waves were calmest, so that there would be some 
small chance of bringing off the young unharmed. 

As the nestlings appeared regularly every season it 
seemed probable that these birds were favored of the 
gods, and the Greeks evolved the fiction that halcyons had 
power to still the waves, so they were venerated by sailors. 
At Moses' time in their history no one knew where they 
nested, but their traditions clung to them and followed 
them across the sea ages later, where their dried bodies 
were hung in houses to bring good luck, and in belief of 
their power to prevent harm there was a custom in Ger- 
many of packing them among flannels to drive away moths. 

Pliny wrote: "The Halcyons are of great name and 
much marked. The very seas and they that sail thereon 
know well when they sit and breed." Since he quoted 
Aristotle so frequently, it seems peculiar that Pliny did 
not avail himself of the fact that his predecessor had seen 
a nest, for Aristotle recorded that they were "shaped like 
a cucumber, the size of a large sponge, and covered." 
"The material of the nest is disputed, but it appears to 
be composed of the spines of the belon, for the bird itself 
lives on fish. It is not easily cut with a sharp knife, but 
when struck or broken with the hand it divides readily." 



82 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Nowhere in Bible lands could be found what we call 
"hay fields," but grass followed moisture all over the 
face of Egypt and Canaan, being especially rank in the 
valley of the Jordan. So there were good nesting sites 
for lark, quail, and all ground-builders loving grassy 
shelter. 

In the wilderness and scattered all over the face of 
the country grew at least five acorn-bearing oaks, all of 
lower habit and more gnarled, twisted, and ragged branch- 
ing than ours. Hosea wrote: "They sacrifice upon the 
tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, 
under the oaks, and poplars, and elms, because the shadow 
thereof is good." There were four varieties of white 
poplar growing in Palestine, so it is very probable that 
translation is correct, but they had no tree corresponding 
to our lordly elm. Neither climate nor soil was productive 
of our "sky-scraper," and without question the tree to 
which they referred was the "teil," which we translate 
turpentine. This tree resembled the oak in trunk and 
branching, had reddish leaves and clusters of red berries, 
and one of this species is still pointed out as that upon 
which Judas hanged himself. These great trees fur- 
nished the stout nesting sites chosen by hawks, ravens, 
and other birds of lofty locations. 

The thorn, to which they so frequently referred in the 
Bible, grew in the form of bushes in Lebanon and along 
the Dead Sea, and another, which reached great size and 
bore heavy spikes, flourished in Palestine, on the plains of 
Gennesaret, and in thickets in the valley of the Jordan. 
The crown of Christ was woven from the thorns of these 
trees. Then, as now, the gray shrikes and the doves loved 
to nest in the protection of the prickly branches, and the 
young came forth safely in large broods. 



THE PLACE 83 

The bay tree mentioned by David, who said, "I have 
seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself 
like a green bay tree," was their most profusely growing 
shrub along lakes and rivers, but not so very common. 
It was the ancestor of our oleander, which proves that it 
still retains a habit of sturdy growth by flourishing and 
blooming abundantly year after year in a tub. 

Luke mentioned a sycamine: "And the Lord said, If 
ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say 
unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, 
and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you." 
This tree is still called "sycamenea" in Greece, and is a 
mulberry, which grows commonly both black and white. 
The sycamore mentioned is a relative of the banyan tree, 
and not at all similar to our sycamore. David, in record- 
ing the story of the wrath of God, wrote, "He destroyed 
their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees w T ith frost." 
This indicated the commercial value of the tree, because it 
was included in a list of precious possessions, such as cattle, 
flocks, and even human life. The reason for its use in 
this illustration lay in the fact that it was the common 
timber of Egypt for furniture, wood work, and mummy 
cases. It was an evergreen of great growth, having a 
leaf resembling a mulberry, and fruit like a fig. It grew 
sparsely on the low plains of Jericho, but not on the high 
hills of Palestine. 

The ash of the Bible was a pine from which idols were 
made, and the precious ebony the heart-wood of the date. 
The box was mentioned among the forest trees and was 
evidently larger than ours, for it was used as hard wood 
in which to inlay ivory, and also small articles such as 
combs and spoons were made from it. Isaiah spoke of cut- 



84 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

ting down the "tall cedars and the choice fir trees." Any 
pine seems to have been called a cedar in Lebanon. Jere- 
miah cried to the inhabitants of Lebanon that made their 
"nest among the cedars." Ezekiel compared the Assyrians 
to a great cedar of Lebanon, of which he said, "all the 
fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs." Solo- 
mon said, "The beams of our house are of cedar, and 
our rafters are of fir." The firs were "choice," because 
they were used in making harps and musical instru- 
ments, for rafters, ceilings, floors in temples, and ships. 
Cypress was mentioned as the material from which a 
heathen god was made, and is thought to be a juniper, 
not the genuine cypress, which was the mourning tree of 
the Mohammedans. Isaiah mentioned many trees suitable 
for agriculture and commerce. "I will plant in the wilder- 
ness the cedar, the acacia tree, and the myrtle, and the 
oil tree ; I will set in the desert the fir tree, the pine, and 
the box tree together : that they may see, and know 7 , and 
consider, and understand together, that the hand of the 
Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath 
created it." The "nut" tree mentioned is no doubt a 
walnut which was transplanted from Persia, and grew 
vigorously in Palestine. Solomon sang: 

1 went down into the garden of nuts, 
To see the green plants of the valley, 
To see whether the vine budded, 
And the pomegrantes were in flower." 

The almond was a native fruit tree, which blossomed 
before leafage, as our cherry and other trees, and from 
its wood the rod of Aaron was cut. 

The palm tree was almost worshiped in Bible lands 



THE PLACE 87 

because it provided shade and fruit in otherwise barren, 
desert country. There was not only the date palm, but a 
number of species, in all some two hundred and fifty 
varieties. These were the especially loved nesting sites 
of the doves. The palms grew on the plains of Jericho, 
in the ravines along the Jordan, and around the Sea of 
Galilee, and are still growing at Beirut. Palms grow 
a tall stem from thirty to eighty feet, and a plume of 
feathery foliage at the top makes them the most graceful 
and beautiful trees of the plains and valleys. On account 
of their loveliness their Hebrew name, tamar, was fre- 
quently given to women. To weary travelers no spot on 
the plains was so welcome as a grove of palms, which 
almost always surrounded water. Moses wrote, in describ- 
ing one stage of the flight of the Children of Israel, 
"And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, 
and three score and ten palm trees; and they encamped 
there by the water." 

Apples are mentioned by Solomon, but as they are 
described as having a gold fruit, silver leaves, and being 
sweet to the taste, they seem more like our apricots. 

The citron was the largest fruit, a native of Media. 
It had larger leaves than an orange, and exquisite purple 
bloom. Moses found it suitable for worship, for he com- 
manded, "And ye shall take you on the first the boughs 
of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs 
of thick trees, and the willows of the brook ; and ye shall 
rejoice before the Lord your God seven days." This ex- 
pression "boughs of goodly trees" is translated from a 
Hebrew word meaning "fruits," and as the citron was 
the finest fruit, it was supposed to be intended and is used 
to-day on the feast of Tabernacles. 



88 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Hosea recorded that he "found Israel like grapes in 
the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first ripe at the 
fig tree." Solomon said, "The fig tree putteth forth her 
green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a 
good smell." It was Samuel who recorded of Abigail, of 
whom all housewives have heard, that she "made haste 
and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, 
and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched 
corn, and a hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred 
cakes of figs." Figs were so nearly the staff of life that 
the people trembled when God threatened to smite these 
trees as a punishment. They grew all over Syria, and 
attained great size. The fruit was pear-shaped, the leaf 
wide, and the bark smooth. It was the first tree named in 
the Bible. The figs were eaten green, and also packed 
in cakes, and dried for winter use. No doubt the robins, 
jays, and lapwings had their full share. 

One of the first trees mentioned by Moses, the most 
abundant in Palestine, and one of the most blessed of the 
Promised Land, was the olive tree, that yielded a great 
abundance of fruit and oil. It formed the foundation 
of the food from trees, and was most esteemed. Also its 
wood was fine-grained, of beautiful amber color, and con- 
sidered the best thing from which to make the body of the 
cherubim, and the door posts and the temple pillars. 

The pomegranate was also such pleasant and popular 
fruit that many towns took its Hebrew name, rimmon. 
This was a tree of low growth, bearing large, blood-red 
flowers, and fruit with a juicy red pulp, from which a 
cooling drink was made that was a great blessing in those 
countries. Blood oranges are now produced by grafting 
an orange branch on a pomegranate tree. These trees 




KINGFISHER STRATTOX-PORTER 

The "Laughing Jackass" of remote antiquity. 



THE PLACE 91 

also were so appreciated that they were thought sufficiently 
sacred to use in temple worship. Solomon sang, "I would 
cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my 
pomegranate." 

These and other trees grew in Bible lands, over moun- 
tains, through valleys, on plains, in cultivated estate, and 
absolute wildness, so that travelers were sure of food 
almost anywhere, and might wander as they chose. 
Among such trees flew shrikes, sparrows, doves, and 
jays, saucy then as now ; robins, always loving fruit trees, 
and sweet-voiced chats. There is a beautiful legend of 
the robin. The bird was said to have been a uniform 
gray until it stained its breast carrying succor to Christ 
on the cross, and since, the red badge of mercy always has 
covered its breast. With its joyous song of "Cheer up ! 
Cheer up !" it should be added to the symbols of the Red 
Cross Society. 

Xo man knew what it meant to live upon the land he 
owned and cultivate his crops in peace. Wild tribes from 
the Syrian desert constantly ravaged the eastern borders 
of Palestine from Lebanon to Edom, and wandering 
Arabs from the desert of Shur came up and pillaged the 
Philistines and Lower Canaan. Then in the fastnesses 
of Edom, along the rocky and almost impenetrable for- 
tresses of the Jabbok, in deserted tombs near Carmel, and 
in numerous caves close Gennesaret, homed bands of pro- 
fessional robbers. These men were so wild and fierce they 
pillaged and killed without mercy, and when plunder was 
scarce, lived upon the flesh of eagles, hawks, wild goats, 
and hares. 

Again, mostly in the name of the Lord, tribe after 
tribe of the settled residents of the country arose, anni- 



92 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

hilating neighboring tribes with whom they had differ- 
ences ; confiscating movable goods and flocks, tearing 
down walls and villages, and enslaving all of the people 
not killed in battle, so that the face of the land was scat- 
tered with ruins. For these reasons people were driven to 
establish cities. They were compelled to build very small, 
strong houses, set compactly, and surrounded with high, 
heavy walls, having small gates for entrance, and to set 
watches at night to arouse the sleepers at the approach 
of anything unusual, and by day to call the w r orkers from 
the fields in case an enemy tried to creep upon them. 
When the villages were so small the people were too poor 
to afford a wall, they built in the same way and stationed 
watches in a high tower. 

All cultivated fields lay outside the city gates and were 
tilled by men, women, and children. Here grew the 
wheat, barley, lentils, mandrakes, melons, the large vine- 
yards, and fruit orchards. Here flocked the doves, chats, 
robins, blackbirds, larks, ground sparrows, quail, and 
partridges. 

Each man had to be content with a very small space 
beside his home to supply his family in case of siege. In 
these gardens a few trees were planted, grape and melon 
vines; gourds were grown for shade, and spices, rue, saf- 
fron, wormwood, and mustard. Wild doves nested even 
in the trees of these gardens, jays, robins, sparrows, and 
sun-birds, and swallows swarmed under the eaves. Many 
of these small gardens must have been very beautiful. 

From the necessity of being inclosed within walls arose 
the custom in Palestine of spending much time upon the 
housetops. The elevation afforded fresh air, neighbor- 
ing villages could be seen, the landscape enjoyed, and the 



THE PLACE 93 

country watched for enemies. Here was a splendid place 
to observe the flight of great pelicans of the coast and 
salt sea, cranes and storks from the cedars of Lebanon, 
herons from the Jordan, owls and night-hawks of the 
ruins ; to hear the songs of the field and garden birds ; to 
breathe the perfumed air rising all around them ; and to 
revel in the glory of color, surpassed nowhere on earth. 
Solomon sang a musical, spicy song of such gardens 
as these: 

' Thy shoots are an orchard of pomegranates, 
With precious fruits ; 
Henna with spikenard plants, 
Spikenard and saffron, 

Calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, 
Myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices, 
Thou art a fountain of gardens, 
A well of living waters, 
And flowing streams from Lebanon. 
Awake, O north wind , and come, thou south ; 
Blow upon my garden, 
That the spices thereof may flow out." 

Again, he said, "My beloved is unto me as a cluster of 
camphire, in the vineyards of Engedi." The force of 
this lies in the fact that camphire, which bore exquisite 
large white and yellow flowers of great fragrance, grew 
near Engedi by the Dead Sea. 

Then, as now, mustard drifted from cultivated places 
and spread everywhere in great beds of waving yellow. 
It was the Master Himself who said, "The kingdom of 
heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man 
took and sowed in his field; which indeed is the least of 
all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest among 



94 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air 
come and lodge in the branches thereof." 

No doubt in that favorable climate mustard grew 
much larger than with us, where it still attains the size 
and shape of a small tree, and the one bird inseparably 
connected with it is, I have no doubt, the same which 
chattered among its branches as Jesus sat by the sea and 
put the mustard into a parable the goldfinch. These 
dainty little birds are always found near gardens and 
seed plants; one almost might imagine they had colored 
their coats with mustard pollen, from the frequency with 
which they are found near the plant. In brooding time 
they have large families, and many of the seeds they gather 
are carried to their young. 

As Jesus sat on the ship and talked to the people on 
the shore in those simple parables, I think His eyes were 
ranging along the coast and back across the land, so that 
He spoke of the common, every-day things, which all 
could see and easily understand. He pointed out the 
sower and his seed, the mustard seed, the woman and the 
meal, and the net that was cast into the sea. As I read 
the parable of the mustard seed I always like to think 
that, as He made it, He could see a swaying patch of 
wild mustard, and in the most skimming, joyous song of 
all birdland the goldfinches darting over it, crying, "Put 
seed in it! Put seed in it!" and shouting, "Pt'seet!" 
"Pt'see !" to each other, just as they do all around our 
homes to-day. 

Many of their spices were imported from Persia and 
India. But Pliny wrote of Happy Arabia the land of 
spices. Solomon spoke of a garment that was "like the 
smell of Lebanon." That warm air must have been per- 



THE PLACE 97 

fumed with the heavy sweetness of citron, myrtle, and 
pomegranate, and pungent with odors of growing spices. 

In their gardens outside the walls they grew onions, 
garlic, and leek ; and peas and beans in large quantities 
for winter as well as summer use. One of the chief vege- 
tables of Egypt was the cucumber. They are old as 
history, and are Valued food. Isaiah wrote of a "lodge 
in a garden of cucumbers," proving that at times people 
built outside the walls of the cities and remained at night 
to guard their most precious crops. 

Mandrake was a member of the potato family, bearing 
a yellow fruit the size of a plum ; and melons were grown 
in successive crops from May to November, and often 
weighed as much as thirty pounds. Solomon wrote: 

The mandrakes give a smell, 
And at our gates are all manner of pleasant 
fruits, new and old." 

No wonder the birds were numerous, and so tame they 
could be snared and netted. 

Gourds made phenomenal growth, often a foot a day, 
and were planted for shade. 

All fruit-growers cultivated grapes, and they grew 
wild in thickets and forests. Wine was carried on long 
journeys where water was scarce. People as a rule were 
compelled to drink wine at home, for in many localities the 
water was strongly alkaline, and could not be used with 
safety. We read in Solomon: 

Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field ; 

Let us lodge in the villages. 

Let us get up early to the vineyards ; 

Let us see whether the vine hath budded, 

And the tender grape appear, 

And the pomegranates be in flower." 



98 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Isaiah sang this song describing a vineyard: 

"My well-beloved had a vineyard 
In a very fruitful hill : 
And he made a trench about it, 
And gathered out the stones thereof, 
And planted it with the choicest vine, 
And built a tower in the midst of it, 
And also hewed out a winepress therein : 
And he looked that it should bring forth grapes." 

It was a great blessing that these countries produced cu- 
cumbers, melons, grapes, and pomegranates. Whether the 
lands inclined to desertness are especially provided with 
these juicy fruits and vegetables by nature or by the Al- 
mighty, it is the happiest thing in the world that they 
grow there. 

In their cultivated fields grew barley, the most uni- 
versal grain known ; and cane, that might have been like our 
sugar-cane or a calamus, from which an essence was ex- 
tracted. David, in adoring the Almighty, wrote a beau- 
tiful corn song, which is found in the Sixty-fifth Psalm, 
but it must be remembered that the grain to which he 
referred was not what we call corn. In all probability 
it was our wheat : 

Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it, 

Thou greatly enrichest it ; the river of God is full 
of water : 

Thou providest them corn, when Thou hast so pre- 
pared the earth. 

Thou waterest her furrows abundantly; Thou settlest 
the ridges thereof ; 

Thou makest it soft with showers ; Thou blessest the 
springing thereof. 




GOLDFINCH 



STRATTON-PORTER 



Goldfinch were all around Jesus when He spoke 
the parable of the grain of mustard seed. 



THE PLACE 101 

Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness ; 

And Thy paths drop fatness. 

They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness ; 

And the hills are girded with joy. 

The pastures are clothed with flocks ; 

The valleys also are covered over with corn ; 

They shout for joy, they also sing." 

Flax was cultivated for cloth ; lentils were cut for 
food for stock, and threshed as wheat ; some of the very 
poor ate them. They also grew millet, rye, and three 
varieties of wheat. The harvest was from April until 
June. Crops were cut by hand, and trampled out on 
threshing-floors by cattle. All these grains furnished food 
for every variety of seed eater. Feathered creatures be- 
came so numerous that Jesus cried, "Behold the birds of 
the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor 
gather into barns; and your Heavenly Father feedeth 
them!" In the parable of the Sower, He made it plain 
that the birds found food at seed time also: "The sower 
went forth to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell 
by the wayside; and it was trodden under foot, and the 
birds of the heaven devoured it." 

Wherever I read in the Bible of harvesting, I think 
only of the field of Boaz ; and Ruth following the gleaners 
to garner what from time immemorial was left for the 
"poor and the stranger." I can see the waving barley fall- 
ing before the reapers, and the glad face of Ruth as the 
"mighty man of wealth" spoke kindly to her, offering her 
food and protection; and then I always hear a lark sing- 
ing above. The bird has had several thousand years of 
practice since that time, but I hope it sang the same 
serene notes of heaven-born sweetness to Ruth and Boaz 



102 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

that it does to us; and I hope it wore just as gay a coat 
when it slipped through those grass and grain fields as 
it has to-day. 

There were masses of flowers to attract the birds to 
Bible lands, large, brightly colored, and highly per- 
fumed blooms. Lilies are frequently mentioned. Not 
our calla, ascension, or lily of the valley, but any flower 
of the lily kind, tulip, ranunculus, or anemone. A real 
lily of red color flourished on the plains of Gennesaret, 
and iris and water lilies grew in profusion. Anemones 
still thrive everywhere, and travelers believe them to have 
been the original "lilies of the field." Their rose is 
thought to be our narcissus, as no roses grew in the Holy 
Land, except in Lebanon. Saffron was cultivated for its 
flowers. Many of their fruit trees were exquisite, not 
flowering like our small and almost universally white and 
pale-pink blossoms, but bearing large clusters of strong 
color and almost sickening sweetness. 

Almond branches in bloom were carried to the temples 
for decoration. The camphire bore large clusters of white 
and yellow flowers. The exquisite pale purple blossoms of 
the citron were used in home and temple decoration in 
Palestine. The wild myrtle had glossy green leaves and 
big waxy white flowers, and the pomegranate bloom was 
large and blood-red. All these attracted myriads of in- 
sects, that in turn furnished bird-food. 

But of all decoration the palm leaf was the favorite. 
There were two good reasons for this. In that warm 
climate flowers withered soon, while a palm branch held 
shape and color, and it was sacred to all the people as a 
symbol of rest and peace. Palm branches bound on the 
right with the white bloom of the myrtle, and on the left 



THE PLACE 103 

with the pale purple of citron, were the badge of desert 
life and were carried by the Jews to wave at the feast 
of the Tabernacles. Afterward these were taken home and 
dried, to preserve as sacred relics. These emblems were 
carried by the multitude who escorted Jesus on His entry 
into Jerusalem, and the effect must have been most beau- 
tiful. 

Many weeds are mentioned in a comparative way, so 
we infer that industry was required to grow crops then 
as now. Brambles seem to have referred to thorns, briers, 
or thickets which interfered with cultivation. Micah, dis- 
coursing on men of folly or foolishness, said, "The best 
of them is a brier: the straightest is as it were taken from 
a thorn hedge." Cockles in the same way seem to have 
meant any troublesome weed of bad odor. Tares were a 
kind of rye-grass with a poison seed, which gave much 
trouble among wheat, rye, and millet. Nettles stung then 
as now, and thistles such as we know, only tall as a "horse 
and its rider," had to be battled with; but all of them 
fed and attracted the birds, and no doubt even then the 
goldfinches lined their nests with thistle down. Job con- 
cluded a great outburst of self-vindication, in which he 
enumerated all his charities and efforts at godly living, 
with the demand that if he had failed in these things, 
"Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockles instead 
of barley." 

Solomon was such a prince of poets that he made 
poetry even concerning the weed-grown fields and vine- 
yards of the indolent : 

" I went by the field of the slothful, 
And by the vineyard of the man void of under- 
standing ; 



104 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

And lo, it was all grown over with thorns, 
The face thereof was covered with nettles, 
And the stone wall thereof was broken down. 
Then I beheld, 
And considered well. 

I saw, 

And received instruction. 

' Yet a little sleep, 

A little slumber, 

A little folding of the hands to sleep* 

So shall thy poverty come as a robber ; 

And thy want as an armed man." 

Scattered all over Egypt were cities, walled towns, and 
villages; the climate permitted tent dwelling, and wan- 
dering tribes lived off the land. There were horses, but 
as they were connected with the worship of the sun by 
the Egyptians, they were not bred save for chariot and 
war purposes. Cattle and asses were used as burden- 
bearers. Cattle were grown for food, sacrifice, and tram- 
pling out grain in threshing. Swine were kept and eaten 
by all save the Jews and Phoenicians, who classed pork as 
unclean food. Goats were herded in large flocks for their 
milk, and sheep for food and wool. Both of these were 
used for sacrifice in religious rites, the hair in weaving, 
and tbe skins for water and wine bottles. 

Cinnamon bear and wolves are still found in the ra- 
vines of Galilee and the mountains of Hermon. Deer 
are abundant in Syria, and were permitted in Bible times 
as food. Hart was a daily article of diet at Solomon's 
table. Hyena, jackal, leopard, and lion ranged the moun- 
tains and wildernesses. Of smaller land animals there 
were the badger, hare, hedgehog, porcupine, weasel, lizard, 
bat, and mouse. Upon the dead of these the vultures 





LARK NEST STRATTON-PORTER 

The lark nested in the grain fields of Boaz. 



THE PLACE 107 

feasted ; upon the young, the eagles ; and on the small, 
the owls. 

Wolves and jackals had been tamed and bred through 
generations into dogs, and although they are not men- 
tioned in the Bible, cats were common and so sacredly held 
in Egypt that at death their bodies were preserved, and 
deposited in an especial shrine at Bubastis. Apes were 
imported, and leopards confined for pets. 

The insects mentioned are flies, lice, fleas, beetles, 
locusts, moths, spiders, and bees, all of which furnished 
more bird-food. The hived bees of England, Southern 
Europe, and our country are from Bible lands, and there 
were wild bees in myriads attracted by the aromatic odor 
of flowers, and spice and gum-bearing bushes. In Psalms 
you will find this line, "They compassed me about like 
bees," so you may be sure they had been seen by David. 
Solomon wrote in his Proverbs this epigram on honey and 
wisdom : 

My son, eat thou honey, for it is good, 
And the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste : 
So shalt thou know wisdom to be unto thy soul : 
If thou hast found it, then shall there be a reward, 
And thy hope shall not be cut off." 

As there were goats, bees, and grapes everywhere, even 
the most humble were able to offer the traveler "wine, 
milk, and honey." 

Moses said in a general summing up of the condi- 
tions that existed in the Promised Land: "For the Lord 
thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks 
of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of val- 
leys and hills ; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and 
fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olives, and 



108 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

honey ; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarce- 
ness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose 
stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig 
brass. And thou shalt eat and be full, and thou shalt 
bless the Lord thy God for the good land which He hath 
given thee." Again, he spoke before a great assembly of 
the people of Israel the words of a song in which he de- 
scribed the inheritance of Jacob : 

He made him to ride on the high places of the earth, 

And he did eat the increase of the field ; 

He made him suck honey out of the rock, 

And oil out of the flinty rock ; 

Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, 

And rams of the breed of Basham, and goats, 

With the fat of kidneys of wheat ; 

And of the blood of the grape thou drankest wine." 

It was the son of Sirach who wrote in Ecclesiasticus, 
"The chief of all things necessary for the life of man 
are water, and fire, and iron, and salt, and flour of wheat, 
and honey, and milk, the blood of the grape, and oil, 
and clothing." 

In the days of Isaiah, Solomon, and David, men had 
accumulated great wealth and wore raiment of fine linen 
of bright colors, and decked themselves with precious 
stones. The refinement of the times may be judged by 
the significance of these lines: 

As a signet of carbuncle 

In a setting of gold, 

So is a concert of music in a banquet of 

wine; 

As a signet of emerald 
In a work of gold, 
So is a strain of music with pleasant wine." 



THE PLACE 109 

People of wealth were served by small armies of slaves, 
and their homes, temples, and synagogues were profusely 
decorated in silver, ivory, pure gold, and jewels. 

Isaiah, in describing the daughters of Zion, said that 
they were "haught}', and walked with stretched necks and 
wanton eyes, mincing as they went." He enumerated 
"anklets, cauls, crescents, pendants, bracelets, mufflers, 
headtires, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, 
rings, nose jewels, festival robes, mantles, shawls, satchels, 
hand-mirrors, fine linen, turbans, and veils" as articles of 
apparel. As they had all these things, it should be no 
cause for astonishment that they also had the "lady" he 
mentions, since they seem to have had all her accessories. 
Many of the tent-dwellers had amassed much wealth in 
flocks and, while following vegetation to afford grazing, 
lived in great circumstance. Their large tents w T ere of 
tanned skins, and their rugs priceless. 

There were musical instruments, and musicians to play 
them, and artists to carve statues and paint pictures. 
David was an accomplished performer on the harp. One 
of his sons made a long list of the worldly goods he had 
accumulated which reads very like an inventory of the 
possessions of a rich man of to-day. 

Civilization was so old that methods, customs, and 
forms of living in Bible lands were practically the same 
that they are now. It was so old that all bird and 
animal forms were almost identical with the same species 
of to-day. It was so old that Moses looked to the pyra- 
mids as an antiquity, a thousand years before his time, 
and so new that he never had seen a chicken. 

In almost every instance the birds here mentioned and 
the quotations given are taken from Moulton's "Modern 



110 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Header's Bible," which as a whole I regard as much more 
even translation, more connected narrative, and more 
scholarly deduction than the older versions. In a few 
instances I prefer the phrasing of the old versions as to 
me more expressive and poetical, or indicating more clearly 
the bird that I think was intended by the author of the 
text. Where I have used these quotations I have indi- 
cated their origin. 

My warmest thanks are due the Hon. George Shiras, 
3rd; the Rev. Herbert K. Job, Hon. E. S. Cameron, Mr. 
Henry W. Lanier, and the Cawston Ostrich Farm, of this 
country, Miss Doris Forescue Carr, and Mr. Spooner, of 
London, and Herr Ottomar Anschutz, of Berlin, for 
kindly assisting me to those parts of the illustration bear- 
ing their names. In two cases where I could not secure 
the names of the photographers whose studies I used, I 
credited them to the person through whose agency they 
were procured. There is no claim made that the birds 
of these illustrations are those of Bible lands and times. 
They are merely our nearest and most available family 
of those species. They are the birds of which we think 
when we read, "Her maids shall lead her as with the voice 
of doves." "Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom?" "As 
a hen doth gather her brood under her wings." 



THE BIRDS OF THE POETS 

'He shall cover ihee with his feathers, 
And under his icings shall thou trust.' 9 

DAVID. 




ROBIN NEST STRATTON-PORTER 

"/ will trust in the covert of tliy wings." 



CHAPTER III 
THE BIRDS OF THE POETS 

POETRY might be defined roughly as the most appeal- 
ing manner in which a thought that touches the heart 
can be expressed. The connecting link between the birds 
and the poets is very strong. Feathered creatures have 
a beauty of form and motion, a sweetness of song, a de- 
fenselessness against the elements, a wonderful ability in 
nest-building, a faithfulness in brooding, a fearlessness 
in defending their young, an attachment to their frail 
homes, and a devotion to each other that marks them as 
the especial property of the poets. There is in bird-life 
a constant appeal to our affection and sympathy, and 
continual comparison is suggested between their life proc- 
esses and ours. We love the birds, and whoever writes of 
them with a touch of the divine tenderness of poesy makes 
instant appeal to our hearts. 

Long before exquisite thought had been harnessed and 
worked down to a thing of rhyme, meter, and carefully 
measured feet, the historians of the Bible were making 
the very essence of poetic expression on many subjects. 
On none did their particular genius soar higher than when 
writing of the birds, or using some of their habits or 
attributes in comparison with men. These poets of the 
dawn knew little about measuring their words into sym- 
metrical periods and covering a page with graceful rhymes 

115 



116 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

to express a single thought. They conceived their poetic 
idea, and then studied to strip it of every unnecessary 
word, in order to present the naked thought more promi- 
nently. Our rhyming and jingling may be soothing and 
musical, but who in these days offers you a thought clothed 
in the refined utterance and with the majestic expression 
of the ancient poets? 

The covers of the Bible are almost bursting with the 
most forceful poems expressed in as clear-cut utterance 
as was ever conceived by man. Wonderful volumes could 
be made of chosen examples, but in this chapter I must 
of necessity confine myself as closely as I can to the birds 
(which is an admission that I am not able to do so en- 
tirely.) I find parts that demand to be given place. 

In the days when life was comparatively simple, as 
contrasted with the complications of modern cities, busi- 
ness, politics, and social usages and customs, men lived 
very near the earth, and so nature touched them closely 
and taught them largely, as is proven by the books of 
David and Isaiah. Every instant of comprehension of 
nature brought them closer in touch with the Almighty 
Force behind it, so that the Spirit was in every utterance 
they made, and poetry throbbed in their brains as blood 
pulsed in their hearts. 

Moses could not write the books of generations, re- 
cord the history of the exodus, and lay down the laws of 
government without here and there breaking into poetry. 
When this work was accomplished, in the last of Deuter- 
onomy, he reached a culmination, and sang for the Chil- 
dren of Israel the songs of Moses and the Lamb. Once, 
"in the ears of all the assembly of Israel," Moses recited 
the song of "The Lord our Rock." It commences: 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 117 

Give ear, -ye heavens, and I will speak ; 

And let the earth hear the words of my mouth : 

My doctrine shall drop as the rain, 

My speech shall distil as the dew ; 

As the small rain upon the tender grass, 

And as the showers upon the herb : 

For I will proclaim the name of our Lord : 

Ascribe ye greatness unto our God." 

With such a beginning it is easy to see how Moses, in 
pouring out his heart at the close of life, reached a climax 
of impassioned utterance in this poem that leaves it stand- 
ing monumental in the literature of nations. 

This thought of Moses, that he wished his teachings 
to refresh his people "as the small rain upon the tender 
grass" in the great spring rejuvenation of the whole earth, 
suggests the Spring Song of Solomon, but they are dif- 
ferent. Moses described spring in comparison ; Solomon 
celebrated the season. His song is found in that chapter 
beginning with the incomparable lines: 

I am a rose of Sharon, 

A lily of the valleys. 

As a lily among thorns, 

So is my love among the daughters. 

As the apple among the trees of the wood, 

So is my beloved among the sons. 

I sat down under his shadow with great delight, 

And His fruit was sweet to my taste. 

He brought me to the banqueting house, 

And His banner over me was love." 

These lines appeal to me as so perfect that any attempt 
at improvement would be sacrilege. They prepare one 
for the cloud-covered heights touched constantly by the 



118 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

genius of Solomon. He continued the chapter in alter- 
nating dialogue as between a bridegroom and bride, mak- 
ing their words celebrate the glory and the calling of 
the Church ; then to the bride he assigned the Spring Song, 
and he must have been thinking of Lebanon with its sweet 
airs, fragrant spices, flowers, fruit trees, and song birds. 

For, lo, the winter is past, 

The rain is over and gone ; 

The flowers appear on the earth ; 

The time of the singing of birds is come, 

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land ; 

The fig tree ripeneth her green figs, 

And the vines are in blossom, 

They give forth their fragrance." 

Then Solomon in a song, addressed the Almighty as 
if He were a dove: 

* ' O my dove, 

That art in the clefts of the rock, 
In the covert of the steep place, 
Let me see thy countenance, 
Let me hear thy voice, 
For sweet is thy voice, 
And thy countenance is comely." 

In this manner the attributes of the beautiful rock 
dove, that nested in shelving granite and wild places, served 
to portray the Creator. And a little later, in an attempt 
to materialize Jehovah, this poet twice used the birds: 

" My beloved is white and ruddy, 
The chief est among ten thousand. 
His head is as the most fine gold, 
His locks are bushy, and black as a raven. 





PELICANS 



SHIR AS 



*/ -aill haste me to a shelter, 

From the stormy wind and tempest." 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 121 

His eyes are like doves beside the water brooks ; 
Washed with milk and fitly set. 
His checks are as a bed of spices, 
As banks of sweet herbs." 

This I consider unsurpassed of its kind. Solomon was 
so very great he never amplified his thought until he lost 
it. Just a few clear outlines sufficed, and literature never 
sustained greater loss than that we have handed down 
to us, only so few of the one thousand and five poems he re- 
corded that he wrote. His comparisons and poetic imagery 
never have been equaled. Throughout his songs the most 
striking lines greet us and, after these thousands of years, 
set our hearts singing. He was a master of the art of 
encompassing a poem in a line, as were the ancients of 
many nations. 

Take for example that vessel previously mentioned, 
that was found in the pyramids. On the bottom was writ- 
ten in Chinese this poem, clear cut and concise as the 
stroke of a skilled surgeon. 

For, lo, the spring is here ! ' ' 

All of the showers and flowers, bowers and hours, that 
could be strung together to tell of April cloud, tree gold, 
flower bloom, migrating birds, bleating lamb, and babbling 
brook, could do no more than to suggest to us a small 
part of the complete glory of the rejuvenation of earth; 
then why struggle with it? Oceans of words can tell us 
nothing new or different from that which we were born 
to enjoy once every season. The least suggestion of any 
part of that picture instantly conjures the w r hole of it; 
then why not content ourselves with merely, "For, lo, the 
spring is here !" 



122 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Historians tell us that when a Chinese poet achieves 
a gem like that he goes out alone and sits silently be- 
fore the most exquisite spectacle in nature possible to him, 
and worships his genius. Small wonder ! Any one who 
can eliminate words, dispense with rhymes, and yet put 
his soul into his theme until it lives century after cen- 
tury, has genius, not only for his own, but for the whole 
world's worship. Perhaps Bible poets were just a trifle 
more verbose than the Chinese, but the examples they set 
us are such as those poetically inclined might follow 
prayerfully. The history of the world does not produce 
greater poets nor stylists to equal Solomon, David, Job, 
and Isaiah. Allow these complete poems of Solomon to 
represent him in comparison with like work from any 
country : 

"We will remember thy love more than wine." 

Many waters can not quench love." 
"Thy lips, O my bride, drop as the honeycomb." 
"For, lo, the winter is past !" 
"My beloved is mine, and I am his." 

Then, in one great poetic outburst, such lines as these 
combined in one of the masterpieces of all time: 

"Set me as a seal upon thine heart, 
As a seal upon thine arm : 
For love is strong as death ; 
Jealousy is cruel as the grave : 
The flashes thereof are flashes of fire, 
A very flame of the Lord. 
Many waters can not quench love, 
Neither can the floods drown it : 
If a man would give all the substance of his 

house for love, 
It would utterly be contemned." 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 123 

David was equally as great a poet as Solomon, but 
there was a wide difference in their style. The very 
thought of Solomon was colored by his riches and power. 
His writings were not only touched with the scarlet and 
gold of royal life, but they pulsed hot with the heart- 
blood of a strong and lusty man. To a great extent all 
Bible scenes had an outdoor background. The lines of 
Solomon are like a field of ripe wheat thickly set with 
purple poppies and crimson lilies. 

David was a king of great wealth also, but there 
was sweetness and humility about him that was infinitely 
touching. He wrote the tenderest things with divine 
purity. His imagery was very simple, but wonderfully 
appealing. If none of his historians had recorded it, I 
always should have been sure that David was a musician 
as well as a poet, and the harp the instrument on which 
he played and, without doubt, to which he sang. The 
pomp, power, and riches of royal life tinctured the very 
blood of Solomon and gave color to his writings. The 
lines of David are full of appeal, touched with rejoicing, 
and tempered by a white flame of holiness. His writings 
are like a bed of snowy lilies blooming in a tender valley 
under the sweep of fragrant winds. His first bird-song 
resembles Chinese poetry: 

"l will trust in the covert of Thy wings." 

David said of himself, "I know all the fowls of the 
mountains," and his writings and the manner in which he 
incorporated the birds proved that he was very familiar 
with them; not casually, as any other aspect of nature, 
but intimately in their home life. No doubt he became 
acquainted with all of them when, as a boy, he herded 



124 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

the great flocks of his father as they fed over the hills and 
pastures. What he recorded of them proved his heart ex- 
ceedingly gentle and tender. No other Bible scribe wrote 
things of such pure heart-interest as David. Watching 
the parent bird move over her nest to shelter the helpless 
young, he saw a picture of trusting love, and so he cried 
out to the Almighty, "I will trust in the covert of Thy 
wings." 

Again, with the same thought in mind, he broke into 
the most exquisite poetic utterance when he assured those 
to whom he spoke of the care and tenderness of the Al- 
mighty : 

He shall cover thee with His feathers, 
And under His wings shall thou trust." 

David's knowledge of bird habits was in his mind when 
he penned that Song of Trust, which is a beautiful ex- 
ample of his faith in God and his art as a poet: 

In the Lord I put my trust ; 

How say ye to my soul, 

Flee as a bird to your mountain ?" 

The rocky fastnesses of the very tops of the moun- 
tains were the especial property of the eagles. When, 
after long ranging far from home, they captured prey 
for hunger-tortured young, or barely escaped the arrows 
of bowmen, and went flashing across the sky faster than 
any living thing could traverse earth, the observant eye 
of David caught the full force of the picture they made. 
So he cried to his soul, "Flee as a bird to your mountain." 
The unparalleled beauty of these lines fired the heart of 
another poet ages later, and based upon them he wrote 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 127 

one of the most appealing and refined outbursts of song 
ever used in worship: 

f< Flee as a bird to your mountain, 

Thou who art weary of sin, 
Close by the clear, cooling fountain, 
There mayst thou wash and be clean ! ' ' 

Then a musician read those lines until the ecstasy of David 
began to swell in his soul, and music touched with Divinity 
to equal the words flowed from his finger tips. 

When David sang the Exile's Song of Rejoicing over 
his deliverance, and praised the Almighty for His care 
of the Church, he uttered a high bird-note: 

" Blessed be the Lord, 

Who hath not given us a prey to their teeth. 
Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of 

the fowlers : 
The snare is broken and we are escaped." 

This makes one see good feeding-ground, the scarcely 
concealed snare, the unsuspecting bird walking straight 
into it, the quick tightening of the hair, and the wings 
that an instant ago ranged cloud spaces, fluttering on the 
earth, every throe of the struggle making the snare cut 
deeper, and one hears the sharp, wild cry of pain and 
fear. 

In my work in the fields I take wild birds into my 
hands more frequently than you would believe. Several 
times in a season I find a young female struggling on 
the ground, unable to deposit her first egg, from its un- 
usual size ; often a mother bird snares herself with a string 
or hair she has woven into her nest; many times an ill- 
chosen bathing-place weights a bird's feathers with crude 
oil past carrying. I know the throbbing pulsations of 



128 _ BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

the captive wild bird-heart against my fingers, when it 
leaps and pumps, the sharp cries sound wholly unlike 
the usual bird-voice, and the tiny thing bites frantically 
at the hand that would give it life. This is the fear 
that is in the heart of the snared bird as it struggles, 
and then thank gracious Heaven! sometimes the snare 
is broken, and it escapes. Back among the tree-tops, fan- 
ning the air with free wing, who shall paint its exultant 



The tender heart of King David had been touched by 
this sight, and so when he saw his loved people walking into 
traps and snares set for them by the wicked, this com- 
parison came to him, applicable as no other. When by 
personal effort and divine aid the snare was broken, and 
they escaped, well might David sing in exultation! 

It was not always song. There were many times when 
David prayed poetry. Once, in pleading for the vindica- 
tion of the righteous, he begged of the Almighty : 

Keep me as the apple of the eye, 

Hide me under the shadow of Thy wings, 

From the wicked that spoil me, 

My deadly enemies, that compass me about." 

Another instance where he used the birds in compari- 
son can be found in the Fifty-fifth Psalm, which in places 
is equally as great as the Twenty-third. In this Psalm 
of prayer there are to be found the basic lines of the 
song, "I will pray." "Morning, noon, and evening, I will 
pray," runs one line. It contains, too, a couplet which 
has sustained faltering millions throughout ages since the 
days of David : 

"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, 
And He shall sustain thee." 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 129 

In fact, it appeals to me that David furnished more 
lines that have been used as the foundation thought of 
exquisite songs and anthems, and more quotable poems 
which comfort the heart, than any other Bible writer. Of 
them all, save the Master Himself, to me David is the 
most lovable; so lovable that it is no marvel that the 
beauty of his heart and soul should tincture his work. I 
should like to begin with, "As the hart panteth after the 
water brooks," and review the lines of David, quoting all 
I know that have been used as the theme of appealing 
songs and anthems, but I must keep to my birds. The 
most exquisite reference of David is in this prayer: 

And I said, O that I had wings like a dove ! 

Then would I fly away and be at rest, 

Lo, then would I wander far off, 

I would lodge in the wilderness. 

I would haste me to a shelter 

From the stormy wind and tempest." 

Only those who have felt the touch of the healing hand 
as they gazed upon loved faces stilled in the sleep of 
death while the singers chant softly, "O that I had wings 
like a dove !" know how to appreciate fully the great heart 
of King David. 

He was great, too, when he extolled the Almighty in 
a kind of poetical appreciation, and twice in these in- 
stances he mentioned the birds. In the Eighth Psalm, 
when he praised the Almighty as King, and exalted man 
as His viceroy on earth, he cried: 

"O Lord, our Lord, 
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth ! 



130 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Who has set Thy glory upon the heavens, 

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou 

established strength, 
Because of Thine adversaries, 
That Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. 

When 1 consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, 
The moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained ; 
What is man that Thou art mindful of him ? 
Or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? 

For Thou hast made him but little lower than God, 

And crownest him with glory and honor. 

Thou madest him to have dominion over the work of 

Thy hands ; 
Thou hast put all things under his feet. 

All sheep and oxen, 

Yea, and the beasts of the field ; 

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea ; 

Whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 

O Lord, our Lord, 

How excellent is Thy name in all the earth ! ' ' 

Again, in what might be called a Festal Hymn, he 
mentioned feathered creatures in his poems of praise of 
the Almighty : 

" Praise the Lord from the earth, 
Ye dragons and all deeps : 
Fire and hail, snow and vapor ; 
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word: 

Mountains and all hills ; 
Fruitful trees and all cedars : 
Beasts and all cattle ; 
Creeping things and flying fowl : 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 133 

Kings of the earth and all peoples: 
Princes and all judges of the earth-. 
Both young men and maidens ; 
Old men and children : 

Let them praise the name of the Lord ; 
For His name alone is exalted ! ' ' 

There is a poetic outburst in Ecclesiastes, in which the 
birds are given a couplet that never has been surpassed, 
so that I will quote the whole of it: 

Remember also thy Creator in the days of thy youth ; 

Or ever the evil days come, 

And the years draw nigh, 

When thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them : 

Or ever the sun, 

And the light, 

And the moon, 

And the stars, 
Be darkened, 
And the clouds return after the rain : 

In the days when the keepers of the house shall tremble, 

And the strong men shall bow themselves, 

And the grinders shall cease because they are few, 

And those that look out of the windows be darkened, 

And the doors shall be shut in the street ; 

When the sound of the grinding is low, 

And one shall rise up at the voice of a bird, 

And all the daughters of music shall be brought low ; 

Yea, they shall be afraid of that which is high, 
And terrors shall be in the way ; 

And the almond tree shall blossom, 
And the grasshopper shall be a burden, 
And the caper-berry shall burst : 



134 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Because man goeth to his long home, 
And the mourners go about the streets : 

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, 

Or the golden bowl be broken, 

Or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, 

Or the wheel be broken at the cistern : 

And the dust return to the earth, 

As it was : 
And the spirit return unto God 

Who gave it." 

When the preacher wrote these lines he would have been 
surprised if he could have known that thousands of years 
after his death, in lands yet to be discovered, and language 
yet to be evolved, other ministers would repeat his words 
with the most solemn inflection to the accompaniment of 
the dripping tears of untold millions; that what he wrote 
would bring comfort to those who mourned as they gave 
back to dust their beloved dead, and could endure the 
giving only in the belief that the spirit did return to the 
God who gave it. 

There are only twelve short chapters in the writings 
of the preacher, but included in them, taking into con- 
sideration the small amount of text they contain, there 
can be found as many sayings casually quoted to-day, 
usually with little idea of their origin, as in an equal 
amount of the writings of any other Bible scribe. He 
said of himself that he sought to find "acceptable words," 
and that what he wrote was "upright," even "truth." 
That he did find "acceptable words" is proven by our 
daily repetition of many of them, and that they live with 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 135 

time proves their truth. As commonly quoted, we owe 
to him: 



e e 



All is vanity." 



"A little bird told me." 
"Eat, drink, and be merry ! " 
"Cast thy bread upon the waters." 
" There is a fly in the ointment." 
"There is a time for everything." 
"There is nothing new under the sun." 
"Better a living dog than a dead lion." 
"The lips of a fool will swallow himself." 
"A dream cometh from the multitude of business." 
"Of the making of many books there is no end." 
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy 
might." 

Job and the friends who condoled with him were such 
great poets that their dialogue conforms to the laws of 
stately blank verse. In his attempt to comfort Job, 
Zophar twice mentioned the birds. The second of these 
references has its proper place here : 

"But where shall wisdom be found? 
And where is the place of understanding?" 

Thus questioned Zophar, and then he answered him- 
self: 

Man knoweth not the price thereof : 
Neither is it found in the land of the living, 
The deep saith, It is not in me : 
The sea saith, It is not with me. 
It can not be gotten for gold, 
Neither shall silver be weighed for the price 
thereof. 



136 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

It can not be valued with the gold of Ophir, 
With the precious onyx or the sapphire. 
Gold and glass can not equal it, 
Neither shall the exchange thereof be jewels 

of fine gold ; 
No mention shall be made of coral or of 

crystal : 

Yea, the price of wisdom is above rubies ; 
The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, 
Neither shall it be valued with pure gold. 

Whence then cometh wisdom ? 
And where is the place of understanding? 
Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, 
And kept close from the fowls of the air. 

Destruction and death say, 

We have heard a rumor thereof with our ears. 

God understandeth the way thereof, 

And He knoweth the place thereof." 

Isaiah was so much of a poet that his prose is liberally 
sprinkled with lines which naturally fall into verse. He 
sang several songs of praise to the Almighty, but he be- 
lieved in making sinners tremble, and most of his poetry 
consists of Doom Songs. He sang of the Doom of Philis- 
tia, Moab, Tyre, and then of Ethiopia. Here he remem- 
bered the clouds of birds which were seen there every spring 
and fall, and he cried: 

Ah, the land of the rustling of wings, 
Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia ; 
Which sendeth her ambassadors by the sea, 
Even in vessels of papyrus upon the waters : 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 139 

Go, ye swift messenger, to a nation tall and smooth, 
To a people terrible from their beginning onward ; 
A nation which meteth out, and treadeth down, 
Whose land the rivers divide.' ' 

Isaiah made several references to birds, most of them 
poetical and forceful in their use, that belong in other 
chapters. In fact, no Bible writer had quite the telling 
force of expression and the gift of pure oratorical style 
of Isaiah. 

It was in describing the Doom of Moab, too, that 
Isaiah remembered the wailing cry and bewildered flight 
of a brooding bird thrown from her nest, and there was 
poetry in his comparison : 

For it shall be that, as a wandering bird 
Cast out of her nest, 
So the daughters of Moab shall be 
At the fords of Arnon . ' ' 

Solomon had this same pitiful picture in his mind 
when he wrote in his maxims: 

"As a bird that wandereth from her nest, 
So is a man that w r andereth from his place." 

While lamenting the miseries of Judah, Jeremiah, who 
came near being a Professional Wailer, shed more tears 
and gave voice to more regrets than any other Bible writer. 
He was thinking of the doves of the palms and the storks 
of the cedars when he cried: 

O inhabitant of Lebanon, 

That makest thy nest in the cedars, 

How greatly to be pitied shalt thou be 

when pangs come upon thee, 
The pain as of a woman in travail !" 



140 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

He touched upon one of the miracles of the birds, which 
no man can explain, when he wrote in uplifted poetical 
strain : 

"l beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, 
And all the hills moved lightly. 
I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, 
And all the birds of the heavens were fled.' 

Although Jeremiah was picturing a storm of wrath with 
which he predicted the Almighty would sweep away the 
homes of the wicked, he had in mind and drew color from 
a tumult of the elements. Especially was he thinking of 
a natural storm when he said, "All the birds of the heavens 
were fled." For he knew that long before men flee an 
approaching storm, the birds seek shelter. All outdoor 
people understand, that before we notice it the birds re- 
alize a storm is approaching, and hide from its fury. 
Whether from their elevation they see storm-clouds com- 
ing, whether they detect storm in air currents, or feel a 
change of atmosphere, we have no way of learning. We 
only know that when the birds grow silent and seek 
shelter on a cloudless summer day, we will regret it if 
we do not follow their example, for soon "the mountains 
will tremble and the hills move lightly." 

Continuing his warnings as to the wrath of the Al- 
mighty, Jeremiah used another bird comparison and broke 
into a heroic strain of mighty appeal: 

Behold, He shall come up as a cloud, 

And His chariots shall be as a whirlwind : 

His horses are swifter than eagles. 

Woe unto us for we are spoiled ! 

O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, 

That thou mayest be saved.'* 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 141 

He was not thinking of the slow sailing of an eagle 
searching for prey, but of the homeward flight of the 
bird carrying food at such speed as is attained in answer- 
ing the hunger or danger cry of its young. Jeremiah 
must have made his people tremble with this picture of 
war chariots of the Almighty sweeping upon them from 
the sky with the swift flight of a homing eagle. 

This lamenting man liked to use the bird of strength 
in drawing forceful pictures to influence the superstitious 
people. They all saw eagles, that were plentiful, soar- 
ing the sky in their might, darting to prey upon the 
flocks ; and unless expert bowmen, they were practically 
helpless against them. So they feared the eagles, and 
Jeremiah could use this illustration forcefully in his aw- 
ful prediction of disaster. The eagle appears in one of 
his most impassioned pronunciations against Edom. 

Whether Obadiah quotes Jeremiah, whether both of 
them quote the Almighty, or whether plagiarism had its 
inception even in those early days, I do not know. The 
eagle song of heroic strain is almost literally the same in 
the writings of both men. Here is one of the rare in- 
stances in which to my ears the wording of the old ver- 
sion is most forceful and poetical. As I do not know 
which truly produced the poem originally, and as I like 
the first four lines of Jeremiah better, and think the last 
three of Obadiah infinitely more poetical, I am going to 
take the liberty to combine the two in one great strain in 
which the anger scream of the eagle almost can be heard 
above the mountains: 

Thy terribleness aath deceived thee, 

And the pride of thine heart, 

O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, 



142 _ BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

That boldest the height of the hill : 

Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, 

And though thou set thy nest among the stars, 

Thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord." 

The writers of the New Testament were straight his- 
torians and showed few signs of poetic temperament. As 
a rule they confined themselves to recounting incidents. 
Revelations remind us of the richness and color of Solo- 
mon, but the birds are not given place. Of those quoted 
in the compilation of the New Testament the Master 
Himself was the poet. He often broke into pure poetry 
of exalted strain, but in only two instances concerning 
the birds. When the scribe came to Jesus and offered to 
follow Him, He, in thinking of how many privations 
and hardships were endured by His disciples, cried: 



foxes have holes, 
The birds of the air have nests, 
But the Son of Man hath not where 

to lay His head." 

This was said in no spirit of complaint, but merely as a 
warning to the man who would follow the Master that 
there would be no worldly profit in so doing. 

The other reference to feathered creatures was made 
after fowl had been imported and domesticated until they 
were a common sight. The habit of the cock in waking 
the day with its lusty crow was in the mind of the Master 
when He said to Peter, "Before the cock crow, thou shalt 
deny Me thrice." Again, this time in a flight of pure 
poesy, when He stretched His arms toward Jerusalem, the 
loved city, and cried: 



BIRDS OF THE POETS 143 

ft O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ! 
How oft would I have gathered thee, 
Even as a hen gathereth her chickens 

under her wings, 
But ye would not ! ' ' 

Of all the poetic references to birds in the Bible, the 
one that sinks deepest in my heart and recurs oftenest to 
my thought is that of Malachi. He was the last writer 
of the Old Testament and tried to summarize his im- 
pressions, in his own words to give "the burden of the 
word of the Lord" in four short serious chapters. After 
explaining his conclusions as to the purposes and prov- 
inces of the Creator, his heart surged hot with pulsing 
adoration and his crowning poetic thought took form in 
this promise of the Almighty, which to me is unsurpassed 
for beauty of poetic imagery among the poets of the 
nations : 

But unto you that fear My name, 
Shall the Sun of righteousness arise, 
With healing in His wings." 



BIRDS OF "ABOMINATION ' 

'And these ye shall have in abomination 
among the fowls.' 9 MOSES. 




WHITE HERONS 



SHIRAS 



White heron are most beautiful in a green setting. 



CHAPTER IV 
BIRDS OF "ABOMINATION" 

AFTER Moses had led the Hebrews from that "hard 
bondage, wherein they were made to serve," he located 
them in what is now known as the Holy Land. Because 
they long had been accustomed to slavery and its exac- 
tions, he was compelled to make severe laws for them in 
this wonderful freedom, or he could not have held them 
together and founded a great nation with their blood. So 
he laid down laws for religious rites, for daily conduct, 
for dress, for food, and for the building of their homes 
and temples. It is with these "pure food" laws of Moses 
that this chapter is concerned. 

In that part of the laws relating to the birds, the King 
James translation of the Bible names the eagle, ossifrage, 
and ospray, vulture, and kite, after his kind; the raven, 
the owl, night hawk, cuckoo, and hawk ; the little owl, cor- 
morant, and great owl; swan, pelican, and great eagle; 
stork, heron, and lapwing. The latest version makes some 
change in this. Beginning with the eagle, it changes the 
ossifrage to the gier eagle, leaves the ospray, changes the 
vulture and kite to the kite and falcon; leaves the raven, 
changes the owl to ostrich, leaves the night hawk, and 
changes the cuckoo to the sea mew; leaves the hawk, little 
owl, cormorant, great owl, and vulture, and adds the 
horned owl ; drops the swan, leaves the pelican, changes 
the great eagle to the vulture, and ends with the stork, 

149 



150 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

heron, and lapwing, as does the old version. There are 
only three changes of any importance: that of the owl 
to the ostrich, of the cuckoo to the sea mew, and the 
omission of the swan. 

The translators of the Bible seem to have had much 
confusion with the owl and the ostrich; and the term 
"ya'anah," meaning greediness, was applied in several in- 
stances to the owl where Bible students of wide research 
are sure the ostrich was intended. 

If people cared to eat cuckoos, they might have been 
used as food ; but as the sea mews lived on fish and carrion, 
there was sufficient reason why the ban should be placed on 
them. As for the swan, there is no probability that it was 
designated among the birds of abomination. Geese, ducks, 
and swans are older than any historical record. They are 
water-birds whose food is not in any way objectionable 
to the most fastidious palate. They always have been 
eaten, and when young and tender are considered great 
delicacies. Swans were not very plentiful, but they did 
exist at the time and in the land of Moses, and no doubt 
were among the fatted fowl served at great feasts in Bible 
lands, as they were in Greece and Italy at that time. 

The other changes merely apply to different members 
of the eagle, vulture, hawk, and owl families. Un- 
doubtedly Moses found every species of all of these unfit 
for food, for he was a man of fastidious taste and great 
learning. He has the sanction of our time, and almost 
all nations from the beginning. However, when this law 
was made it was necessary, for the mountaineers of Leba- 
non were eating hawks and eagles, and so were the half- 
wild tribes of Syria and Arabia, with which the Hebrews 
would come in contact. 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 151 

Of these nineteen birds mentioned in the latest ver- 
sion of the Bible, thirteen are referred to elsewhere for 
other reasons, so that their history belongs in the chapter 
devoted to them. But the night hawk, sea mew, heron, 
lapwing, ospray, and vulture are mentioned only in the 
food laws, and only as birds of "abomination." 

THE NIGHT HAWK. 

Almost every Bible student and commentator has a 
personal opinion as to the bird here intended. The He- 
brew word, "tachmas," originally means, "to tear or 
scratch the face." That probably would happen to one 
coming in contact with any captive hawk or owl, and 
easily might occur in the case of any of two dozen differ- 
ent birds. The first translators of the Bible thought this 
referred to a bird identical with our strix flammea, or 
barn owl. 

To me it seems that the later version indicates the 
night hawk, or night jar, and as it is of this bird we 
think when we read of the night hawk, I shall write of it. 
It was in all probability a bird very similar to ours, for 
there were three species in the Holy Land, one almost 
identical with ours. 

Never was there truer night hawk country than Pal- 
estine, where most of the action of the Old Testament was 
confined. The country is of as mountainous character 
as Switzerland, though the mountains are much lower. 
One great plain, Esdraelon, sweeps from the ocean to the 
river, lesser plains lie between hills and mountains; there 
are many small lakes connected by rivers, and wherever 
there was moisture, rank vegetation flourished, and spicy 
shrubs and waxy sweet flowers that attracted insects. 



152 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

One of the rivers often mentioned by Bible writers, the 
Kedron, is now lying a dry bed, but in those days it was 
of importance, as it helped to water the plains. 

To all the attractions of location almost tropical cli- 
mate was added, so that earth afforded no more alluring 
haunt for the night hawk. There was mountain, valley? 
and plain hunting for food, taken on wing; perfumed air 
so thick with insects that they were a pest to the people, 
river and lake water frequent, and little shelves among 
the rocky mountains, and bare brown spots of plain for 
nesting-places, where the color of nature would so match 
the birds' backs as to conceal them when brooding. 

Here they could deposit their eggs, so similar in color 
to the earth upon which they were laid, with scarcely an 
attempt at nest-building, that one might step upon them 
unaware. The brooding birds were shades of grayish 
white, browns, and tans, and quite as invisible as the eggs. 
It was the habit of these birds when brooding to remain 
perfectly quiet upon the nest, trusting that their likeness 
to the surroundings would conceal them. If danger 
threatened too closely, they fluttered from the nest, using 
the old trick of brooding birds when they pretended to 
have a broken wing, and hopped away as if helpless, to 
lure one from their location. 

Since in the thousands of years intervening between 
now and the time when Moses placed the ban on these 
birds there has been no perceptible change in their looks 
and habits, it is quite likely that travelers of the plains 
and shepherds herding their flocks were familiar with this 
sight in the days of Moses, and even before his time. 

If these birds were cornered or disturbed just as their 
young were emerging, they sat upon their tails, fought 
with beak and claws like a hawk, distended the throat 




NIGHT HAWK 



JOB 



Xight hawk on her nest. 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 155 

greatly, and hissed. In this position they appealed to 
the risibilities of some Frenchman, who applied to them 
the name of "Crapaud volans," flying toad. There was 
reason for the application of the title; it was appro- 
priate. This calls to mind the fact that night hawk, the 
common name of the bird, is not suitable for them. 
They are more nearly related to martins and swal- 
lows than to hawks, and they may be seen flying and 
taking food for long periods at any hour of the day. 
As a rule, they take flight at three in the afternoon, 
always by four or five, so that they are not sufficiently 
creatures of night to be characterized by a title that rele- 
gates them to birds of darkness. For their size the 
eyes are unusually large, and they do fly and find food 
on wing at night. But you will learn that they settle by 
midnight, as a rule, if you will watch them some clear 
August night, when they circle in numbers over a lake. 
They also spend much time on wing in afternoons of late 
summer. They have a liking for cities, though I do 
not know just how to explain the attraction. Neither 
does any one else. But it has been observed that they 
have a fondness for sailing over cities, where their graceful 
sweeping flight is a treat to the tired eyes of those con- 
demned to walls and heat. No doubt they swept out from 
the mountains, and up from the plains, and hung above 
Jerusalem, Bethel, and Nazareth on warm summer even- 
ings, and were watched from the housetops by the faith- 
ful as they offered up their prayers. Almost without ex- 
ception the cities of the Holy Land were placed upon 
high hills and the tops of mountains, so that the inhab- 
itants could look down to the plains and valleys and be 
prepared for the approach of an enemy or to welcome a 
friend. 



156 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

This also had the advantage, in clear half-tropical air, 
of giving to the inhabitants, who were great dwellers of 
the housetops, wonderful views of valleys, plains, and 
other cities. The marvelous color of earth and clouds, 
the brilliancy of foliage and flower of the plains, made 
pictures which we can not even imagine. The wonderful 
flight of the night hawk was a part of them, as it soared,, 
circled, fell, and rose again. 

All birds to which these are related are creatures of 
powerful flight; the night hawk in its abrupt risings and 
fallings as remarkable as any. Its strong plumage enables 
it to soar and sail, and as it takes much of its food on 
wing it remains in flight for hours. Its sky evolutions are 
marvels of grace as soaring exhibitions ; and often dur- 
ing the brooding season, sometimes for the diversion of 
the weary female, as other birds give a concert, the male 
night hawk has a circus. He sails, soars, turns, and twists 
rapidly, and then mounts to a height of eighty feet 
or more and, extending his stiff wing-quills widespread, 
he falls rapidly toward the earth, the wind whistling be- 
tween the feathers with such an uncanny sound that 
some ornithologists believe it is made with the mouth. 
When he nears earth he recovers his balance and mounts 
in as straight a flight as any bird can make; just now 
I can remember none that can equal him in perpen- 
dicular ascent; and after soaring a time, he makes the 
whistling drop again. This is a ludicrous performance 
to watch, but not more amusing than the nuptial dance 
of a blue heron, the drumming with which a partridge 
courts a mate, or the antics of a black vulture. It is 
little wonder that the ancients spent so much time on the 
housetops: the location was so fine for seeing marvels and 
wonders. 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 157 

Aristotle spoke of a bird that dwells in cliffs and rocks, 
that was "faulty both in color and voice," and "that ap- 
pears in the night, and escapes in the day," which seems 
to be his nearest reference to a night hawk. The matter 
is incorporated in his chapter on "Hawks," which makes 
the theory more conclusive. Pliny merely mentions a hawk 
"that preyeth in the night." 

Just why the bird was placed on the list of abomina- 
tions to the taste, may be accounted for in several ways. 
The prohibition seems unnecessary, for the methods of 
taking birds in the days of Moses would have made it im- 
possible to capture sufficient numbers of this bird of se- 
clusion and flight to serve as a staple of food. Possibly 
its meat had a strong flavor. Probably its early and con- 
tinuous flight soon made it have tough, strong muscles. 
And again, in a land "of milk, wine, and honey," where 
a traveler need make no provision for a long journey, 
but might feast as he chose by the wayside, there were 
so many more attractive things to eat that Moses ob- 
jected to his people using anything for food with a 
hawklike appearance: for all hawk flesh was barred for 
food, and the provision, "after his kind," included the 
night hawks as well as the great birds of day. 

THE SEA MEW. 

The bird which the most recent translators of the 
Bible have decided is the sea mew, was thought by their 
predecessors to have been the cuckoo, although they ad- 
mitted the uncertainty of the basis on which they made 
the claim. They suggested in notes that some sort of gull 
or shearwater might have been intended by the Hebrew 
root "shachapah," which means to be "lean and slender." 



158 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

The birds of both versions occurred in Bible days and lands, 
but the cuckoo was not sufficiently common to make it a 
staple of food. There was no good reason why it should 
not have been eaten if people had chosen. Its plucked 
body was small, though not half so small as sparrows, 
which were an article of food on sale in the markets. But 
then, the sparrows were all the year residents, so numerous 
that they could be trapped and netted by the hundred; 
cuckoos were never plentiful, and they were migratory. 

Sea mews were to be found in great flocks all along 
the east coast of the Mediterranean, and inland around 
the Sea of Galilee and larger lakes. They were birds of 
size to make them worth consideration for food, and suffi- 
ciently numerous to have formed a staple of diet. There 
were two great objections to them. 

They lived on fish, which ruins the flesh of any bird 
for food, making it strong and rank. They added to 
that a few insects and eggs of other birds around the 
shore, but they also ate with avidity every scrap of car- 
rion to be found, which gave force to the veto against 
them as an article of food. Gulls are not now, and in 
all probability never were, acceptable even to the palate 
which endured the hawk and eagle. 

It is said of them that they have more intelligence 
than the average bird, and share with the raven and some 
species of eagles and hawks the knowledge that if they 
find any mollusk the shell of which they can not penetrate, 
they can carry it aloft and drop it on the rocks to break 
it open. It takes a very wise bird to learn this. Most 
feathered creatures would pick at a shell a few times, and, 
finding it unyielding, seek food elsewhere. 

The gulls breed around the shores where they fish, and 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 161 

are wonderful water birds of powerful flight. They 
take long trips in migration, and remain on wing no 
one knows how much of their time. They swim well, and 
when tired of flight can sail on the surface, rest their wings, 
and even sleep afloat, as ducks and swans. They drop 
from air and plunge beneath the surface for fish and sea- 
foods they see, and face a storm on wing as almost no other 
bird. They circle and tack, and are seen to fly directly 
into the face of heavy winds. If they do not delight in 
a tumult, they deceive men into thinking so by remain- 
ing among the raging elements when shelter could be 
sought were not the storm preferred. 

They did this in the days of Moses and long before 
his time, just as now. It was noted, commented upon, 
and superstition, as always, was ready with an explana- 
tion. Because these birds seemed restless, ever on wing, 
flying over the stormy seas and rough lakes when it ap- 
peared as if they must be driven against their will, the 
Moslems believed them to be tenanted by the souls of 
the damned. I am quite sure Moses did not think that 
of any bird, unless he believed that it was used as an 
instrument to convince doubting souls; but it must be 
remembered that his early life was spent among the idol- 
ators of the Egyptian court, and he was familiar with the 
traditions of all known history. He would have been more 
than human if his life never had been in the least tinged 
by his early surroundings. 

Stanch believer that Moses was, I am sure no man 
reared in Egypt ever killed a gull, an ibis, a lapwing, or 
a cat. The birds and animals connected with idolatry, 
superstition, or believed to be of good or bad omen by 
oracles and augurs, were left very severely alone. If any 



162 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

man thought there was a slight possibility of interfering 
with a soul in torment by killing a gull, you may be sure 
he did not molest the bird, least of all eat it. This su- 
perstition may have had some influence in deciding Moses 
to place the ban on the sea mew, and leave it free to 
breast the stormy winds of the Mediterranean and live 
out its life in peace around rough little Galilee. 

THE HERON. 

Some of the oldest residents of the lakes and running 
water of the Holy Land were the blue, white, brown, and 
buff-backed herons, the latter really an ibis; seven mem- 
bers of the family in all. The herons, which summered in 
Europe, crossed the Mediterranean and sought the waters 
of Lake Merom and the river Jordan in winter. Simul- 
taneously with their northern flight the same birds of Cen- 
tral Africa made their migration and took their places, 
so that they were to be seen constantly in the Holy Land. 
Their range is world-wide, and species differ but little in 
frame, color, and habit. 

They fished and nested the length of the Jordan, where 
it crossed the plains at Esdraelon and formed low, marshy 
beds; and followed its tributaries, where frogging was 
good. Midway between Galilee and the Dead Sea, the 
Jabbok, a little river especially loved by water-fowl, en- 
tered the Jordan. It came into the sacred river in a nar- 
row channel between high, rocky walls, but toward its 
head waters it was a small marshy stream in places, its bed 
almost dry excepting when, during the winter rains, the 
floods from the high hills and mountains entered it. But 
throughout the summer season, w T hen the herons of Africa 
were nesting there, this river was almost dry, and its bed 




BLUE HERON 



STRATTOX-PORTER 



The blue heron among water grasses. 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 165 

furnished the kind of feeding-ground loved by them, 
so that they made long flights there food-hunting, even 
when they nested elsewhere. It is quite possible that the 
herons of earliest morning, hunting along this river, may 
have witnessed the conclusion of the scene when Jacob 
wrestled with the angel, for it happened one night on the 
banks of the Jabbok in the land of Ammon. 

But the most loved spot of the Holy Land, and the 
one around which herons congregated at all seasons, was 
Merom. This little lake was only six miles long and four 
miles broad. The Jordan entered it at the north, and left 
at the south, passing through Galilee and emptying into 
the Dead Sea. The shores of the lake had spots of im- 
penetrable marsh, where through thickets grew masses of 
bulrushes and sweet water-grasses, among winch frogs 
pursued sweet-loving insects, and the herons pursued the 
frogs. It is the habit of these birds to nest in colonies 
in tall trees ; but where hunting was so good as at Merom, 
they raised their young among the papyrus, reeds, and 
water-grasses of the swamps. 

When the winter rainy season had passed, and the 
Jordan and its tributaries lowered to their natural chan- 
nels; when spring bloom of wild trees, fruit trees, and 
spice bushes perfumed the clear air with almost sickening 
sweetness, the herons gathered near Merom, nested in the 
marshes, and hunted around the margin of the lake. They 
were so nearly the same birds that we see in similar loca- 
tions to-day that a picture of any one of our blue herons 
busy with its great industry, frogging, will serve as a like- 
ness for them. The white herons were small, the blue a 
little larger, and the brown nearly the same size. A pure 
white bird is ahvays beautiful, and when it makes its way 



166 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

among the rank growth of an almost tropical lake, the 
green setting gives it especial beauty. 

The blue bird reached a height of three and one-half 
feet, with a wing sweep of five feet. The neck, beak, and 
legs constituted two-thirds of their length, the body the 
remainder. This life among the rushes has had a pecu- 
liar effect on these birds. From ages of wading between 
rush stems and food-hunting in water their legs have grown 
longer and longer, their necks have stretched and stretched, 
and their bills have elongated also, until they present an 
unusually snaky appearance as they come slipping between 
the rushes. They are fine illustrations of what can be 
done in the way of evolution by development along one line. 
If herons swam the surface and scooped food from shal- 
low muck as do ducks, or scratched in earth and picked 
up worms as do chickens, equally as much as they wade 
water and thread rushes for food, they would have a dif- 
ferent shape. Ages of wading between rushes and hunt- 
ing food among roots keeps them increasing length of leg 
and neck until at a casual glance leg and neck seem to 
be almost all there is of them. 

Human beings can do the same thing. If for six 
generations a man scarcely uses his left arm and wields a 
blacksmith's hammer with his right, the seventh will pro- 
duce a man with an abnormal right arm. It is upon ex- 
actly this principle that different forms in nature have 
been evolved. The duck swims the surface, so she has such 
a complete boat of a body that she tucks her head under 
her wing and the wind blows her across the surface of a 
lake as she sleeps. She scoops her food from the shallow 
muck so her beak has widened into a shovel. She uses her 
feet in swimming so the muscles between her toes, have 



BIRDS OF "ABOMINATION" 167 

stretched until they have formed a web which makes her 
a paddle. 

The bodies of other birds have evolved according to 
the food they hunt and the location of their nests. In its 
environment the heron has become almost the slimmest 
bird there is, and it is probably due to this fact that 
Moses legislated against it in his pure-food laws. It car- 
ried practically no flesh. It was mostly bone and muscle, 
and even in youth the little flesh it had was of blue color 
and tough with muscle fiber. I doubt seriously if a 
plucked heron three and a half feet tall will weigh much 
over two pounds. I never had one shot to learn, be- 
cause there is no fact concerning any bird that I want to 
know badly enough to kill the bird. But it is difficult 
to find a reason for placing the herons among the birds 
of abomination, unless it is that there was nothing of 
them to eat. I think the reason Moses barred herons was 
because he did not like their flavor. Undoubtedly their 
steady diet of fish and frogs gave to what flesh they had 
an offensively fishy odor. Whether it did or not, the fact 
remains that there would be little more than a pound of 
meat to be gotten by scraping the entire frame of a heron, 
and there were so many other birds of tender, white meat 
that could be eaten, that the heron went on the abomi- 
nation list. But I am told by T. Gilbert Pearson, the 
warden of the Audubon bird preserves on the shores of 
the Carolinas and Florida, that herons are killed for food 
by the poor classes of those States in our own country. 
People must be very poor, indeed, when they resort to the 
food to be found on the legs, wings, and back of a heron, 
and I doubt if the breast is either thick or inviting meat. 
Again, Moses might have hesitated over using the heron 



168 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

for food because it was too near a relative of the ibis, which 
was religiously sacred in Egypt. 

The herons are very artistic birds on the landscape. 
It is a shame to kill them. The blue heron is my favorite 
in flight, and the white among the rushes. The blue 
herons have a white head and neck, with a black crest and 
throat line, dull blue-gray back, wing, and tail feathers, 
mixed with black and white touches and hints of brown, 
and a long white beard on the breast. I love to see them 
trailing across the sky, with the long neck shot forward, 
the slender legs trailing behind, and the wide wings beating 
slowly. They do not fly at great height when changing 
from lake to river in food-hunting, and they frequently 
utter a rasping "Ker-awk! Ker-awk!" on wing, no doubt 
to locate their mates. If a heron in flight passes between 
you and the sun, in such a manner that its shadow flashes 
across the grass, you have small sense of humor if you do 
not get a good laugh from the spectacle. It is the most 
amusing sight. 

Bible herons nested in colonies in the tall cedars and 
fir trees where they were to be found, and built a rough 
nest of coarse sticks and twigs. Their eggs were from 
four to five in number and of pale-blue color. The young 
remained in the nest until well grown, and were cared for 
attentively by their parents. Baby herons were the same 
amusing spectacles before they were able to fly and fully 
feathered that they are now. 

Aristotle knew three herons: the black, the white, and 
a kind called "asterias." Of these he pronounced the 
black an "ingenious bird ;" but he said "its color, however, 
is bad, and its stomach always fluid." He recorded that 
the white heron is "beautiful, and it tends its young care- 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 169 

fully in trees." Of heron characteristics he said, "It at- 
tacks creatures which injure it, as the eagle, for it seizes 
upon it, and the fox, for this creature attacks it during 
the night, and the lark, which steals its eggs." These 
larks, which stole heron eggs, are mentioned by no other 
writer with whose work I am familiar, so I think this must 
be a large mistake. 

Pliny wrote that the black heron, "called pellon, 
mates with much pain and difficulty; as for the males, 
verily they cry again for anguish, and the blood starts 
out of their eyes. And with as much ado and trouble do 
the females lay." Aristotle had the same idea. I never 
heard of this from any other source, and I doubt if the 
act of mating is painful to any bird. But I know that 
females suffer to a greater or less degree in depositing 
their eggs, and that the joy manifested by some of them 
when the act is accomplished is an expression of relief. 
This is particularly noticeable in the cow bird and do- 
mestic fowl. It seems to be a feeling similar to those 
paroxysms of sobbing laughter which come to a human 
mother when her child is safely delivered to her. 

Herons are beautiful birds, whether food-hunting or 
in flight, and do no harm in any way o'f which I can 
think, so they should be protected rigorously. They are 
among the oldest birds of history, and though they may 
be an "abomination" to the hungry, they are a treat to 
the soul of a lover of nature, as they wing their deliberate 
flight across country from lake to river. 

THE LAPWING. 

The lapwing of the Bible was called the hoopoe in 
Southern Europe and England, from its cry, which re- 



170 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

sembled this word when it is properly intoned, and this 
translation was correct. We know the bird only in parks, 
where its great beauty wins it many admirers. It is the 
size of our brown thrush, and wears a gorgeous flaring 
crest of broad, graduated feathers of pale yellow, banded 
near the point with white, and tipped with black. Its 
beak is very long, gracefully curved, and sharp. The 
head and neck are a warm golden buff color, which ex- 
tends over the breast in slightly lighter shade. The back 
is a cinnamon color, and the wings and tail are buff, 
banded which black and white. A wide circular band of 
white arches across the tail near the middle, and the wings 
are crossed by four or five of these white bands. The 
folded crest lies back like that of a kingfisher, but it is 
longer and heavier ; the feathers, being of unequal length, 
cross it with lines of black and white. 

Pliny gave this description of the bird: "The Houpe, 
or Vpupa (as ^Eschillus the Poet saith), changeth also 
her hue, voice, and shape. This is a nasty and filthy bird 
otherwise, both in the manner of feeding, and also in nest- 
ing; but a goodly fair crest or comb it hath, that will 
easily fold and be plaited: for one while she will draw it 
in, another while set it stiff upright along the head." 

I think this is surely the bird mentioned by Burns in 
Afton Water, though he says, "green-crested." But 
possibly he saw it in strong sunlight, and the black of 
the crest had that peculiar irri descent-green of the neck 
of a blackbird, and so much other black feathering. It 
must have been uttering the hoopoe cry full force, for the 
poet admonished it : 

"Thou green-crested Lapwing, thy screaming forbear, 
I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair." 



y v\ : 




LAPWING 



CARR 



cZZ 



"Doctor Bird." 



BIRDS OF "ABOMINATION" 173 

The original home of the bird was Southern Asia or 
Africa. They were numerous in Palestine, but spread 
over Europe in migration. They were plentiful in Egypt, 
where they remained all the time; while they were only 
summer residents of Palestine. The Arabs believed they 
had power to cure sickness, and called them "the doctor 
bird." They used lapwing heads in compounding many 
charms. These superstitious people thought, from a pe- 
culiar habit of these birds in placing their bills on the 
ground and raising and lowering their crests, that they 
could detect water and thus indicate the spot upon which 
to dig wells. They also taught that the lapwings could 
hear you when you whispered, and reveal your secrets. On 
account of these beliefs the Egyptians almost worshiped 
the birds. Moses expressly stated that the reason he placed 
the ban on any fowl was because it was an "abomination" 
for food; but I think he must have been influenced to 
some degree in the case of the lapwing, in particular, by 
his early years of Egyptian training. The Greeks and 
Romans also had many strange superstitions and peculiar 
traditions concerning these birds. On account of their 
great beauty they had small chance for life when they 
crossed the sea, and a bullet still greets their every ap- 
pearance in unfamiliar places. Scientists think they would 
breed in England if they had the slightest encouragement" 

All accounts of their nesting habits are extremely dis- 
couraging. There can be no question why Moses, who 
studied all these points, put a ban upon the lapwing for 
food. It ate such filth as to be indescribable. It seems 
that a starving person could not watch one eat, and then 
use it for his own food. One great scientist says of it: 



174 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

"All observers agree in stating that it delights to find its 
food among filth of the most abominable description." 

Then lapwings nested in a hole in a wall or in a hol- 
low tree, and again their habits were most repulsive. The 
female brooded closely, and the male fed her and the 
young. The faeces were not removed by the old, as was 
the case almost universally with birds, and soon the nest 
and the region around it became unbearable to mortals. 
One would think these birds would have taken such pride 
in their dainty variegated plumage that they would have 
become neater housekeepers, even if they had no partic- 
ular sense of smell. In a country so warm as Palestine 
the situation near a nest could be imagined easily. 

So this is another of the birds forbidden the Hebrews 
for food by Moses. Small wonder ! And yet it was one of 
the birds of his list concerning winch some other nations 
thought he made a mistake. On a diet of grubs, worms, 
and insects in Northern and Middle Europe, after nesting 
cares were over, the lapwing grew very fat ; and on the way 
back to Africa they were much killed in Southern Europe 
for food, and were considered the height of delicate bird 
morsels. The Christians of Constantinople especially 
prized them. There is to say for these people that they 
were unfamiliar for the most part with the bird's breed- 
ing habits. Without personal acquaintance with the 
hoopoe, I agree with Moses. 

The lapwing is still frequent in Palestine. It nests 
in the hollow trees of Judea and Galilee, in clefts of the 
rocks and holes in the walls; it drinks from the Jordan, 
and utters its "hoopoe" cry all over the very land with 
which the Savior was most familiar. The ancient Mosaic 
law against using it for food still prevails. 




-*-- 




:*"" / 



JP*^ x * >- -J>' 



YOUNG LAPWINGS 



CARR 



.1 nest fid of young "Doctors." 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 177 

THE OSPRAY. 

"Asinyeh," which our translators of the new version 
of the Bible render ospray, seems to have come nearest 
one of the small eagles. Our ospray is a fish-eating bird, 
but fish were found only in a few places in the Holy Land, 
so that the greatest authorities on Bible history think the 
bird was a species of short-toed eagle nearly two feet in 
height, which was common in Palestine and so closely re- 
sembled the ospray that a scientist would have been re- 
quired to tell them apart. This is very probably true. 

This bird fed on serpents, lizards, and frogs, and its 
feet were covered with a thick, scaly armor, that pro- 
tected it from bites. The back was dark brown, the 
under parts white with dark, half-moon shaped markings. 
It had a flat head and big yellow eyes, and was a very 
impressive figure on the landscape. 

Whether it was this eagle or the true ospray that 
soared and hunted over Palestine was a question difficult to 
decide, and one which makes small difference, since they 
were so similar. It was of the true ospray of which Pliny 
made a delightful observation, based on the wonderful 
power of vision of all birds of these families: 

"Now, as touching the Haliartos, or the ospray, she 
only before her little ones be feathered will beat and strike 
them with her wings, and thereby force them to look full 
against the sunbeams: now if she see any one of them to 
wink, or their eyes to water at the rays of the sun, she 
turns it with the head forward out of the nest, as a bastard 
and not right, and none of hers, but bringeth up and 
cherisheth that whose whole eye will abide the light of the 
sun, as she looks directly upon him." 



178 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

It was for the same reason that all eagles, hawks, vul- 
tures, and owls were prohibited for food that the ospray 
went upon the list of abominations. 

THE CORMORANT. 

In the new version of the Bible the cormorant is only 
mentioned among the birds of "abomination." The ref- 
erence in Isaiah in the old version, which reads "cormorant 
and bittern," being changed in the new to the pelican 
and porcupine. 

The change from the cormorant to the pelican makes 
very little difference. The birds are close relatives, and 
their cries and habits are quite similar, so that either 
would suit the requirements of the text equally well. But 
to change the bittern to the porcupine, as will be explained 
in the Bittern chapter, is undoubtedly a great mistake. 
Here the old version is correct by every law of natural 
history. 

All along the shores of the Mediterranean where it 
bounded the Bible lands, around the inland seas, and the 
largest rivers, the cormorants lived in flocks, and rarely 
was a pair seen singly. They liked the rocky shores of 
the Dead Sea, Galilee, and the banks of the Jordan 
made splendid fishing-grounds. They were near the size 
of small geese, but longer in body, with a shorter, thicker 
neck. Their bill was almost as long as a pelican's, greenish 
at the tip, deep yellow at the base and around the eyes, 
and had a sharp-curved tip above. 

The plumage was black over the neck and back, with 
greenish reflections, and very dark blackish gray under- 
neath. They hobbled around the shores with bare webbed 
feet like geese, but were not nearly such good walkers, 




OSPRAY 



SHIRAS 



O spray approaching nest. 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 181 

even at times seeming to depend upon the stiff tail-feathers 
for support. Their wings were long and pointed. They 
were able to swim under the water to far outdistance the 
swiftest boatman. 

Around the seacoasts they nested in rocky cliffs, and 
by the rivers in the largest trees, building big, deep nests 
of dry rushes, water-grasses, reeds, and roots. Our birds 
which most resemble them in appearance lay four small, 
bluish eggs for the size of the birds. The young are 
slow about leaving the nest, and only two broods are raised 
to a season. 

Great quantities of small fish were carried to a nest 
of young each day, and the old birds, when free from 
brooding cares, were known to eat a dozen and a half 
good-sized fish in the same length of time. These Bible 
cormorants lived mostly on fish, but they were seen to eat 
young ducks, herons, and other water birds. Moses pro- 
nounced against them as an article of food, and their diet 
sounds as if he were in the right. But they extend almost 
to polar regions with us, and our Laplanders think them 
good to eat. There is a possibility that the fish of Arctic 
waters do not taste so rank and strong as those in the 
tropics, and the flesh of a fish-eating bird there may not 
be so strongly flavored. 

It was their harsh, rough cry that led translators to 
place them among the birds used to intimidate people in 
depicting scenes of desolation, and in this way they be- 
came confused with the pelicans. Then, too, their prac- 
tice of regurgitating the fish they eat is so similar to 
pelicans (which derive their names from this habit) that 
translators were puzzled as to which bird was intended. 

The Chinese use their cormorants commercially. They 



182 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

carefully gather freshly laid eggs, place them under 
brooding hens, and raise the young by hand, making them 
very tame. When the birds understand what is wanted 
of them, and become experts, they are taken on rafts over 
good fishing grounds and set to work. A well-trained 
bird will bring up great numbers of fish in a day, and 
when two or three work on one raft they become very 
valuable to their owners. 

On account of their large size, no doubt, they were 
a . temptation to people who wanted bird-meat for food. 
It is probable that Moses placed the ban on them on ac- 
count of their diet, as he did most of the other birds of 
abomination. 

THE VULTURE. 

The new version of the Bible only mentions the vul- 
ture among the birds of abomination. In the former trans- 
lations, when Isaiah predicted how the Almighty would 
avenge His Church, he said, "There shall the vultures be 
gathered, every one with her mate." The revision makes 
this read "kites" instead of vultures. When we think of 
a vulture we mean one of our three species of large car- 
rion eaters, most commonly the black vulture of the South. 
They are our nearest bird to those that were named 
"Pharaoh's chickens." This was done on account of the 
fact that in warm Egyptian country they were so prized 
for their work as scavengers by the residents of walled 
cities, villages, and tents of the desert that one of the 
Pharaohs made a law providing for the infliction of the 
death penalty on any one killing a vulture. 

This stringency of law for the protection of birds in 
olden times was not confined to Egypt alone. The stork 




CORMORANT JOB 

Cormorant rising for flight. 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIQX" 185 

was guarded by a death penalty in Thessaly because of 
its efficient work in killing serpents. Both Athens and 
Rome had superstitious reverence for any bird building 
on a temple of worship. They thought the bird claimed 
the care of the gods, and so they protected it. Pliny 
gives all the details of the murder, by an enraged mob, 
of a shoemaker who killed a raven that was hatched on 
a temple. The ibis was sacred in Egypt. Birds consid- 
ered good omens and augurs were safeguarded by law, and 
the superstitious people were afraid of those of evil omen. 

There is no connection in our minds between the vul- 
ture and the kite. With us the kite most resembles a great 
hawk or eagle, and its diet of rats, mice, moles, and young 
birds removes it from our conception of the vulture, which 
for the most part watches for the dead, and feasts on 
carrion. It is small difference to us which of these birds 
occupy a place in Isaiah's prophecy of desolation. But 
I very much dislike the other changes which relegate the 
vulture to the birds of abomination. 

All my life I have found peculiar satisfaction in the 
lines recorded by Job where Zophar describes a mine for 
silver in the depths of the earth, with scarce a path lead- 
ing to it, and a perfectly concealed entrance. Zophar 
said, in speaking of this way to the silver mine, "There 
is a path which no fowl knoweth and which the vulture's 
eye hath not seen." The revision changes this to 

That path no bird of prey knoweth, 
Neither hath the falcon's eye seen it." 

I should have liked it if these lines had been made to read : 

There is a path which no bird near earth knoweth, 
And which the vulture's eye hath not seen." 



186 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

That would have made good natural history accord with 
the idea of the speaker. There is a way so skillfully con- 
cealed, because it leads to a mine where men find riches, 
that none of the small birds living near the ground know 
that it is there, and none of the great hunters of earth 
from the high places have seen it. Of the searchers for 
food from among the clouds, the vulture, hawk, and eagle 
stand pre-eminent. Any of these w r ould suit the idea of 
Zophar very well. No one has decided or can decide 
with absolute certainty which of these birds can see the 
farthest. They have ranged the heavens since the begin- 
ning of the keeping of records, and strained their eyes 
searching for food. No doubt their vision is equally acute. 

Just to look at an eagle, the color in his eye, and the 
force in his whole face, give the impression of great power 
of penetration. But I have had much experience with 
vultures, and I find they are deceptive in appearance. 
With their low-hung head and humping walk they ap- 
pear to be sneaking creatures of earth. I know them to 
be unsurpassed rangers of the heavens. I have tested 
their sight by laying a piece of meat of two or three 
pounds' weight on a stump under a cloudless sky, where 
I could see no sign of any bird, and in a few minutes five 
vultures dropped from without my range of vision and 
began fighting over the meat. 

I have seen them locate and go to carrion which eagles 
might have had as well if they had seen it. I have watched 
a vulture on earth as it turned its head on one side and 
sent an eye scanning the heavens, when I was sure it saw 
its mate where I could not distinguish anything; and I 
looked with eyes trained from infancy to see far and ac- 
curately. I have marked on the face of a vulture, when 



BIRDS OF "ABOMINATION" 189 

it came very close where I worked around its nest, such 
a look as I never saw on the face of any other bird. The 
age of China, the sorcery of Egypt, and the cunning of 
Arabia were combined in it. 

It appeared to say: "The Almighty, before whose 
marvels you stand mute, made me. I have my place in 
the divine plan, and my purpose to serve. All nations 
have protected me." Then it seemed to fling the chal- 
lenge, "Darest thou molest me?" And I stood trembling 
before the look in the eye of the black vulture, and con- 
fessed to my soul that I did not dare. The home of any 
bird and its young should be sacred to every one. 

No bird can be traced to more remote antiquity than 
the vulture. It is mentioned far back as written records 
extend. Previous to that time it was used in hieroglyphics 
chiseled over monument, obelisk, and pyramid. 

Herodotus said, "The vultures came from another 
part of the earth, which is invisible to us." This means 
that they were migratory, and crossed the Mediterranean 
from Africa. Aristotle advanced a step, and said: "Diffi- 
cult as it is to observe them, their nests have been seen. 
The vulture builds in inaccessible rocks, wherefore its nest 
and young ones are rarely seen." 

Pliny had this to say of them: "The black vultures 
are the best of that kind. No man ever could meet with 
their nests: whereupon some have thought, but untruly, 
that they fly unto us out of another world, even from the 
Antipodes, who are opposite unto us. But the very truth 
is, they build in the highest rocks they can find, and their 
young have many times been seen, two together, and no 



190 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

The vultures we know and of which we think when we 
read of these birds are the great condors, that are a 
western coast bird, and our largest species; the next 
smaller, the red buzzard; and the smallest, our black vul- 
ture, having a body the size of a medium turkey and be- 
tween four and five-foot wing sweep. 

Bible people knew as their largest species the great 
lammer-geier, which fed on the bones and carcasses aban- 
doned by other birds and animals. For so minutely has 
the Almighty planned the scheme of creation and the 
progress of evolution that when the smaller vultures had 
eaten every shred of carrion from a carcass, the lammer- 
geiers were waiting to tear up the skeleton and drop 
the bones upon the rocks from great heights, to get the 
marrow, which was the greatest delicacy. Thus a dead 
animal was obliterated. The geiers were also fond of 
the tortoise, which they carried aloft and dropped upon 
stones to break the shell. Pliny described the death of 
the poet ^Eschylus, that he said was caused by this habit 
of the geier, which he confused with members of the eagle 
family, and of which he wrote: "Subtle she is and witty: 
for when she has seized upon tortoises, and caught them 
up with her talons, she throweth them down from aloft 
to break their shells. And it was the fortune of the poet 
^Eschylus to die by such means. For when he was fore- 
told by wizards out of their learning, that it was his des- 
tiny to die on such a day by something falling on his 
head: he thinking to prevent that, got him forth that day 
into a great open plain, far from house or tree, presum- 
ing upon the security of the clear and open sky. How- 
beit, an eagle let fall a tortoise, which light on his head, 
dashed out his brains, and laid him asleep forever." 



BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 193 

The bird undoubtedly was the greatest of the vulture 
family, so closely resembling an eagle in flight that at 
the height from which it dropped the tortoise those pres- 
ent could not say accurately which bird it was. At any 
rate, it was the geiers that followed the practice by w r hich 
the poet is said to have met a death without a parallel 
in history. 

Vultures were common all over Bible lands. These 
locations formed their best territory. A great variety of 
carcasses were left over the mountains and in the wilder- 
nesses by beasts and birds preying upon each other. 
Along the coast and around the lakes the vultures flocked 
over the haunts of the pelican and ate putrid fish dropped 
between nests. Across the desert they followed caravans, 
picking up refuse. Among the tents of the shepherds 
they caught up the offal from dressed meat and fowl. 
In cities they were found wherever a scrap of food was 
thrown away. To the very altar they went to eat the 
entrails from the prepared sacrifices of cattle, lambs, 
goats, and birds. 

They paired with much affectionate courting, and 
built in crevices in walls, cliffs, hollow trees that had 
been felled f9r commerce and found worthless, and in 
just such places as they nest to-day. They laid two eggs, 
and because the young remained over two months in the 
nest they raised only one pair to the season. The young 
were covered with snowy-white down, then half down and 
black feathers, and finally became black as their parents. 

On account of their diet the region near nests is un- 
bearable. These birds must have small sense of smell, or 
they could not live with themselves. They have a habit 
of lifting the wings and sitting in the sun, which appears 



194 



BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 



as if they might be trying to air themselves. It is not 
on record that the most daring ornithologist ever was able 
to eat of their flesh, though several have tried. The rea- 
son Moses placed them among the abominations is obvious, 
for they were the very worst of his whole list as an ar- 
ticle of food. 



THE DOVE 

*O, that I had wings like a dove! 

For then I would fly away and be at rest" 

DAVID. 







s 

8 






CHAPTER V 
THE DOVE 

ACCORDING to our translations, the dove is mentioned 
more frequently than any other bird of the Bible, and 
always in a way to indicate that its habits and character- 
istics were the same then as to-day. It was written of 
first by Moses, when he recorded the receding of the 
waters of the great flood. He described how Noah, after 
his trial with the raven, sent out a dove. In all proba- 
bility he chose the raven because it was big, strong, and 
such a knowing bird. Then he sent a dove. She could 
find no perching-place, and the roof of the ark occupied 
by the raven did not attract her, so she re-entered the ark 
and joined her mate. Noah waited seven days and sent 
her again, and when she returned he could see signs that 
she had been eating green leaves. No doubt she was 
crazed for fresh food after the confinement of the ark, 
and gorged, to repletion, for the tender, gentle dove al- 
ways has been a great glutton. 

However, it does not carry food in its bill, but eats 
a crop full, and then regurgitates a portion to its mate 
and young. This undoubtedly is what the watching 
Noah saw, that the returning dove had a full crop, and 
divided with her mate, as is the habit of doves. Then 
he knew that she had found green food, and soon all the 
birds and animals could be released. The choice of the 
dove to send on this mission appeals to me as wiser than 

199 



200 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

that of the raven. No other bird of history that is capable 
of the length of sustained flight of the dove has its tender 
love for its mate and would return to it with such surety. 
David was thinking of this wonderful power of flight in 
these birds when he cried: 

O, that I had wings like a dove ! 

For then I would fly away and be at rest." 

One of our greatest authorities on birds says: "No 
sharp distinction can be drawn between pigeons and doves. 
No one species can be pointed out to which the word dove, 
taken alone, seems to be absolutely proper." Yet the next 
Biblical reference to doves proves that at the time Moses 
compiled the Hebraic law the distinction between a dove 
and a pigeon was sharply drawn in law and by the people. 
Pigeons even then were half -domesticated, the timid doves 
remained wild. 

In Genesis, Moses described the scene wherein God 
strove to strengthen the faith of Abram when he asked 
of the Lord how he was to know of his inheritance. The 
command was, "Take me an heifer of three years old, 
and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon." This indicates 
that the species were separated a thousand years before 
the time of even the crudest attempt at ornithological 
records. 

There were three doves of separate families and habits 
which Moses knew. The palm turtle, which was not so 
very numerous, took its name from its love of nesting 
in palm trees, sometimes to the extent of a colony of a 
half dozen families to the tree. Often it was seen in the 
gardens near Jerusalem and around Jericho. Where the 
palm did not grow it nested in flocks in the thorn trees. 



THE DOVE 201 

It is supposed to be the bird that was most often used 
for sacrifice in the wilderness, where it easily could be pro- 
cured. It was a small dove, only ten inches in length, 
with a strong chestnut color, long tail, and bright irri- 
descent feathers around the neck, that took on a beau- 
tiful sheen in sunlight. 

The collared turtle-dove was the largest, and wintered 
in the trees on the shores of the Dead Sea, in summer 
spreading through the woods of Tabor, the forests of 
Gilead, and following up the rocky gorges of the Jordan. 
It was three inches longer than the palm dove, and was 
of plump, full body. It had rich, creamy plumage, a 
collar or ruff of black feathers around the neck, and was 
of especially sweet and plaintive voice, so that its species 
were caged for pets and given much loving care by the 
women. There is a dove of this family now imported 
for this purpose, but it is smaller and darker of color. 

There is no doubt in my mind but it is this bird to 
which David referred when, in an exhortation to praise 
God, he quoted what is now thought to be a snatch of 
an old triumph song, which mentioned "the wings of a 
dove covered with silver and her pinions with yellow gold." 
I can see just how the comparison was made. In that 
strong, tropical light the rich, creamy feathers of the bird 
would throw flashes of gold, and when she spread her 
wings the hidden lighter color would show, and in beating 
the air would give off silvery gleams. 

Turtle-doves were the commonest of all, and abounded 
in Palestine as in no other country in the world. In the 
winter they went south, but by the middle of April they 
were on every tree, in every thicket, over the fields along 
the Jordan the sure harbinger of spring. Jeremiah said, 



202 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

"The turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the 
time of their coming." In his beautiful Spring Song 
Solomon wrote, "The voice of the turtle is heard in our 
land." Bushes, trees, and clefts in the rocky gorges fur- 
nished them nesting sites, and they fed to gluttony upon 
grain, the seeds of numberless wild plants, and every va- 
riety of clover leaf, of which they are fond when it is 
young and tender. 

Most of Pliny's dove history is true to-day, but 
some of it is peculiar. He was of the opinion that as 
soon as the eggs hatch, the old birds filled the crops of 
the young with "salt and brackish earth, to prepare the 
appetite and season the stomach." He also noted that 
doves did not lift their heads in drinking, but "took a 
large draught at once, as horses and kine do." He said 
that "stock doves lived to be from thirty to forty years 
of age; in which time they find no infirmity or discom- 
modity at all but only this ; that their claws be overgrown, 
which is a sign of their age." He quoted Theophrastus 
as saying that doves, peacocks, and ravens were imported 
into Afia. Pliny recorded of his own observation, "Into 
the parts about Volaterras, there is not a year but one 
shall see a world of stock doves flying from beyond the 
sea." 

All doves have much the same voice and mournful cry. 
No other bird-note makes so deep an appeal to the sym- 
pathy of every heart. It is such a sad, sobbing note that 
these birds are universally spoken of as "mourning doves" 
by the common people. 

Isaiah wrote, "I did mourn as a dove ;" and again, 
"We roar all like bears and mourn like doves." 

Nahum, in writing of the victorious armies of God 



THE DOVE 205 

against Nineveh, said, "And Huzzab shall be led away 
captive, and she shall be brought up, and her maids shall 
lead her as with the voice of doves tabering upon their 
breasts." Ezekiel, in prophesying the final desolation of 
Israel, prayed, '"But they that escape of them shall es- 
cape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the 
valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity." 

There are four notes in the mourning song ;. the first 
like the sucking breath of a child trying to suppress sobs, 
followed by three long-drawn tremulous notes that seem 
especially designed to harrow the human sympathies. 
They catch you in the heart. "A'gh, coo, coo, coo !" The 
first note is almost impossible of human reproduction, the 
other three are easy enough. But it appeals to me that 
the prophet should have said, "My mourning sounds as 
a dove," because the truth is that when dove-notes grow 
simply heart-rending in their wavering appeal, if you are 
where you can see the birds you will find that they are 
caressing each other in an abandon of pure joy, and their 
so-called "mourning" cry is the voice of their mating 
ecstasy. 

The ancient Persian poet Attar realized this when he 
called the wailing cry of the dove "sham sorrow" in his 
"Bird Parliament :" 

Then from a wood was heard unseen to coo, 
The Ring Dove 'Yusuf! Yusuf ! Yusuf ! Yu ' 
(For thus her sorrow broke her Note in twain, 
And just where broken took it up again) 
' suf ! Yusuf ! Yusuf i Yusuf ! ' But one Note, 
Which still repeating, she made hoarse her throat : 
Till chekt * O You, who with your idle Sighs 
Block up the road of better Enterprise ; 



206 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Sham Sorrow all, or bad as sham if true, 
When once the better thing is come to do.' ' 

Doves and pigeons were the most common and best 
loved of all birds of Bible lands. They were so numerous 
that the very poor, who could not afford the usual cus- 
tom of building cotes for the pigeons, made places in their 
homes, and wandering tribes could secure all they wanted 
in wild state. They were the chosen bird for sacrifice 
along with the best of the flocks, because people were re- 
quired to part with things for which they cared. An owl, 
hawk, or raven would not have constituted a sacrifice. 
These birds were considered nuisances that every one would 
have been glad to destroy. 

In almost all cases where doves are specified for sacri- 
fice it is stated that a "young" bird should be used. 
This might have been for three reasons. The offering 
should be young and tender to represent innocence and 
purity. It might have been that not always old birds 
could be trapped or netted when wanted, but that the 
species were so common that the young could be taken from 
the nest at any time. Again, the law of Moses especially 
stipulated that a brooding bird should not be disturbed, 
in order that it might continue reproduction. At any 
rate, young birds only were used for sacrifice. In the 
case of the birth of Jesus, Luke recorded that accord- 
ing to the law of Moses, Mary went up to Jerusalem 
"to offer a sacrifice to that which is said in the law of 
the Lord, a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons." 
Moses specified that in certain cases, if a woman "be not 
able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtle-doves 
or two young pigeons." It is probable that the specifi- 



THE DOVE 207 

cation of doves or pigeons was made because, while the 
doves migrated, the pigeons remained all the year; so that 
if doves, which seem to have been slightly preferred, as 
they were always mentioned first, could not be had, pigeons 
were at hand in abundance. 

Doves were netted, snared, and sold for food and sac- 
rifice as well as for pets. They were articles of com- 
merce, for Matthew wrote that "Jesus went into the 
temple of God, and cast out all them that bought and 
sold in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money- 
changers, and the seats of them that sold doves." This 
statement of Matthew was confirmed by Luke and John, 
and the act was directly in keeping with what Christ would 
have done. 

Hosea referred to the timidity of these birds in case 
of attack, and the fact that they showed no disposition to 
defend themselves when he spoke of a "silly dove, without 
heart." Again, when he described the ingratitude of Is- 
rael to God, he said, "They shall tremble as a bird out 
of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria." 
While instructing the apostles, Christ had thought of the 
harmless, lovable character of these birds when He cau- 
tioned His chosen teachers, "Behold, I send you forth as 
sheep in tne midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as ser- 
pents and harmless as doves." Jeremiah commanded the 
inhabitants of Moab to imitate the characteristics of doves ; 
that is, be innocent, harmless, and trust in the providence 
of the Lord. 

O ye inhabitants of Moab, leave the cities, 
And dwell in the rock ; 

And be like the dove that maketh her nest 
In the sides of the hole's mouth." 



208 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

David used the term "turtle-dove" to represent the 
people of God when he implored: 

"O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove 

unto the wild beast : 
Forget not the life of thy poor forever." 

To Isaiah was given the most beautiful thought of all, 
for it was he who, in discussing the glory of the Church 
in the great accession of the Gentiles, asked, "Who are 
these that fly as a cloud and as doves to their windows?" 

The perfect and exquisite beauty of this thought of 
Isaiah's was pulsing hot in the heart of gentle Elizabeth 
Barrett when she penned to Robert Browning the most 
exquisite love-letter by a woman ever made public, in 
which is this line, "Like as doves to their windows, so 
do my thoughts fly to thee." No wonder, after he had 
known the fullness of her love and she had gone out, a 
beautiful soul, straight to the windows of her heavenly 
home, that he walked the floor, distraught, crying, "I 
want her! O, I want her!" I doubt if man has known 
greater and holier love than hers. 

After being recorded in history, and made the basis 
of these beautiful comparisons, the dove was embalmed 
in song. Solomon repeatedly sang of it in those exquisite 
songs in which he and David set the world an example it 
has failed to follow. In one sentence, which sinks so deep 
into the heart it remains a lifetime, they put more pure 
imagery, more poetic thought, and more subtle compari- 
son than our poets encompass on many pages : 

"O my dove, that art in the clefts of 

the rock, 
In the covert of the steep place, 



THE DOVE 211 

Let me see thy countenance, 

Let me hear thy voice ; 

For sweet is thy voice, 

And thy countenance is comely." 

These lines celebrate Divine care of the Church and 
are based on the knowledge of the rock dove. Again, in 
referring to Christ's awakening of His people: 

I was asleep, but my heart waked ; 

It is the voice of my Beloved, that knocketh, 

saying, 

' Open to Me, 
My sister, my love, 
My dove, my undefiled : 
For My head is filled with dew, 
My locks with the drops of the night.' 

He used the dove again in describing the person of 
Christ with poetic imagery: 

His eyes are like doves beside the water brooks ; 
Washed with milk, and fitly set." 

In singing the graces of the Church: 

"My dove, my undefiled, is but one ; 
She is the only one of her mother ; 
She is the pure one of her that bare her." 

He made the Bridegroom to chant : 

"Behold, thou art fair, my love, behold, thou art fair, 
Thine eyes are as doves." 

And again: 

"Thine eyes are as doves, behind thy veil." 



212 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

It would seem that all these tributes and comparisons 
were enough to place the dove above all other birds in 
the hearts of the people, but there is yet its highest honor 
to recount: 

"And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straight- 
way out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened 
unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like 
a dove, and lighting upon Him : and, lo, a Voice from 
heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am 
well pleased." 

This is the crowning glory of the innocent and tender 
dove. The Almighty, who knew all of His creations in- 
timately, chose it as the medium in which His Spirit 
should materialize at the baptism of Christ. No other 
bird in the history of all the world has borne honor high 
as this. 



THE EAGLE 

'Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, 

And make her nest on high? 

She dwelleth on the rock, and hath her lodging 

there, 
Upon the crag of the rock, and the stronghold. 

From thence she spieth out the prey, 
And her eyes behold it afar off. 
Her young ones also suck up blood: 
And where the slain are, there is she." 

JOB. 




EAGLE STRATTON-PORTER 

"Thy youth Is renewed like the eagle's" 



CHAPTER VI 
THE EAGLE 

THE little strip at the east end of the Mediterranean 
must have been the most wonderful place of all the world 
for natural history subjects. In that small space, under 
almost tropical skies, with air tempered by the great 
sea and mountains, which are as numerous there as in 
Switzerland, though lower; w r ith the sea on the west, and 
a salt sea in the interior; rivers, lakes, and brooks of pure 
water; fountains and springs, with rich plains and fertile 
valleys; where does earth produce another spot of equal 
size so congenial as a home for all kinds of furred and 
feathered creatures? 

In nearly every instance what Bible writers said of 
the birds proves their habits and characteristics unchanged 
to-day. From the sanity of the greater part they 
wrote it is almost positive that when their meaning is 
obscure there is an error in translation. No one of them 
knew the birds, or at least went into detail, as the Man 
of Afflictions. There is just a possibility that brooding 
over his troubles from the unpromising vantage of an 
ash-heap Job watched the creatures around him to learn if 
living was a rough affair for them. As he was the soul 
of honor, he recorded what he saw in a way to furnish 
a model for all following observers. Any one who can 
record plain truths in exquisite verse is a great genius. 

217 



218 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Most authors to-day feel that plain fact is not poetical 
and must be embellished somewhat to make it attractive. 
The living quality of Job and all other Bible writers lies 
in their ability to make naked truths appealing. 

What does any one need to know of an eagle not 
contained in this inspired poem of Job's? 

(t Doth the eagle mount up at thy command?" 

Indeed no ! It mounts at the command of its nature. 
With unsurpassed strength of wing in unequaled flight 
it soars, sails, wheels, mounts, drops, and poises motion- 
less eyeing the sun, as it chooses. Its great wings are from 
seven to nine feet in sweep, and its body averages three 
feet in length. Those wings are often over two feet wide 
in their greatest extent, and sixteen inches in the least. 
Once a primary quill, twenty-four inches in length, 
dropped in my path from above cloud. With feet drawn 
among the feathers, the eagle stretches these large fans 
and sweeps cloud spaces over three hundred feet above us ; 
or folds them and darts earthward like an arrow until 
it wants to recover itself and soar on high again. No 
other bird of history has its strength of wing, its tireless 
flight, and its poise and grace of motion. 

Obadiah was thinking of this very thing when he wrote, 
"Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle." Every writer 
in the Bible who wished to portray swift motion in cloud 
spaces used it as an illustration. Job said of himself: 

Now my days are swifter than a post ; 
They flee away, they see no good. 
They are passed away as the swift ships : 
As the eagle that swoopeth on prey." 



THE EAGLE 219 

Solomon included the flight of this bird among the 
marvels which he enumerated in Proverbs : 

There be three things which are too won- 
derful for me, 

Yea, four which I know not ; 
The way of an eagle in the air ; 
The way of a serpent upon a rock ; 
The way of a ship in the midst of the sea ; 
And the way of a man with a maid." 

This swift flight of an eagle, the poise above prey, 
and the fierce downward plunge were in the mind of Jere- 
miah when he said to the Ammonites, "For thus saith 
the Lord; Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall 
spread his wings over Moab." As eagles were common 
in the affairs of life all over the Holy Land, and the 
sharp-shooting bowmen practically the only protection 
against their ravages, Moab knew exactly what Jeremiah 
meant. If the Almighty were going to spread His wings 
over them and make the fierce downward plunge of a 
hunger-maddened eagle seeking prey over their flocks, 
fowl, and children, it was time to heed the prophet's 
words. This same warning was given to the inhabitants 
of Bozrah. 

Hosea cried, "Set the trumpet to thy mouth: as an 
eagle he cometh against the house of the Lord; because 
they have transgressed My covenant, and trespassed 
against My law." These men were hitting straight from 
the shoulder, and they were aiming at the heart. They 
were putting things just as strongly as they could hon- 
estly, and as forcibly as they knew how. Had there been 
a bird within their knowledge of stronger, swifter flight, 
fiercer habit, more appropriate to their purposes, you may 



220 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

be very sure they would have used it in their comparisons 
and similies. 

In exhorting Judah to repentance, Jeremiah fell into 
heroic vein under the impulse of his strong emotions, and 
delivered a great poetic outburst of warning: 

"Now will I also utter judgments against them. 
Behold, He shall come up as clouds, 
And His chariots shall be as a whirlwind : 
His horses are swifter than eagles. 
Woe unto us ! for we are spoiled. 
O Jerusalem, 

Wash thy heart from wickedness, 
That thou mayst be saved." 

You observe the line, "His horses are swifter than 
eagles," which were the swiftest things Jeremiah knew to 
use as his standard of comparison. Habakkuk could make 
this point no stronger when he reached the highest pitch 
of eloquence concerning the Chaldeans, and needed al- 
most a similar comparison: 

They are terrible and dreadful : 

Their judgment and dignity proceed from themselves. 

Their horses also are swifter than leopards, 

And are more fierce than the evening wolves : 

And their horsemen bear themselves proudly, 

Yea, their horsemen come from far : 

They fly as an eagle that haste th to devour." 

"And make her nest on high," wrote Job. Naturally 
the eagle made her nest on the top-most base she could 
find. Instinct told her to place it out of all danger, for 
she knew that in circling over mountains, hills, valleys, 
and desert, searching for food, she often would be absent 




EAGLE NEST 



CAMERON 



"She maketh her nest upon the rock, 
Upon the crag of the rock and the stronghold. 91 



.. 



THE EAGLE 223 

for long periods. So the rocky summit of Hermon, ten 
thousand feet high; Moab, Edom, the heights of Gilead, 
Hamath, the rocky heights of Nazareth, Tabor, Gilboa, 
and all the ranges along the east bank of the Jordan 
were her chosen nesting sites. 

There are times in good hunting country where the 
eagles build great nests in large trees, but with the un- 
counted heights of the Holy Land to offer foundations, I 
imagine Bible writers saw nests only upon the highest 
peaks of their mountains. Big nests, four and five feet 
across, founded on the rock, walled with sticks and twigs, 
and coarsely lined, that the feet of the young might grow 
strong like their elders by early in life gripping on some- 
thing hard. In these big nests from two to three eggs 
were placed. Most of our eagles deposit a dirty white 
egg, speckled and splashed with umber. Job does not 
say what color the eggs of the eagles of Palestine were, 
neither does any other Bible writer. 

As there were several different eagles, their eggs 
varied with species. There is no question at all but 
some writers confused members of the vulture family 
with the eagles. Micah said, "Make thee bald and poll 
thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as 
the eagle." This had reference to the Mohammedan 
custom of shaving the head in mourning; but as Bible 
lands knew no bald eagle, the only bird to which the 
text could have referred was the great griffon vulture, 
which was bald and closely resembled an eagle in flight 
and some of its habits, while in others it differed. But 
the similarity was sufficient that any casual writer easily 
might have made the mistake of Micah. 

Undoubtedly the whole Aquilla family were included 



224 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

in the reference to eagles, and some of the vultures as 
well; and as the habits and characteristics of all of 
them were very similar, this might occur. So the eagles 
set their nests on the rock ; "Upon the crag of the rock 
and the stronghold," said Job. Higher than men were 
likely to climb ; higher, and in rougher, more barren places 
than beasts of the mountain would ascend; up, close 
heaven, so that Obadiah, in speaking of them, cried, 
"Though thou set thy nest among the stars!" 

From thence she spieth out the prey." 

Higher than any other living creature, strength of 
wing unsurpassed, her nest on the top rock of the moun- 
tain, she hung above it, watching where the lion cubs lay 
and the leopards slunk. Wisely did they seek cave and 
crevice, and stand guard. From the top crag she searched 
the barren spaces and the low growth. Hanging on wing 
or perching in dead trees at the base of the mountains, 
she watched for the hare, the newly-dropped fawn, the 
kid, or, if hunger-driven, the serpent; and always the 
carcass of the freshly slain. 

She poised above the fields and made her unerring 
plunge over its creeping earthy things. Birds of the 
mountain, valley, and plain fled from her, and only those 
of such dexterity of wing that she feared for her eyes 
dare resist her. Our kingbird is not known to have lived 
in Bible lands at Bible times, but with us it will attack and 
drive an eagle in headlong flight, because it is so small it 
can dodge the talons of the great bird and strike its eyes 
from above. 

Out in the valleys and fields shepherds lost young 
lambs and fowl, guard as they might ; and perching on 



THE EAGLE 225 

the top of a tall dead tree, rocky crag, or poising on 
wing, she waited until the fish hawk and kingfisher had 
sighted and captured prey, and then attacked and robbed 
them. 

"Her eyes behold it afar off," wrote Job. 

"Farther than any other living bird," he might have 
added, because anciently as we can trace the history of 
the eagle its habit has been to strain its eyes from the 
extreme heights occupied by it alone in search of food. 
The member we constantly use develops unusual strength 
until it finally attains great power. The part we do not 
use, gradually wears away. Witness the disappearance 
of the bird tail of twenty long vertebrse. Witness the 
eye of an eagle that drops from above cloud to snatch 
up a creature of the grass whose presence is unnoticed 
by us. 

These great birds have a way, for mere pride of 
strength and display of power, of flying beyond our range 
of vision, directly into the face of the sun. That their 
eyes bear this light comes only through centuries of evo- 
lution. Job knew that for us it would be impossible: 

' And now men can not look on the light when it is 

bright in the skies, 

When the wind hath passed and cleansed them. 
Out of the North cometh golden splendor, 
God hath upon Him terrible majesty." 

That the eye of the eagle is able to face straightly 
the "terrible majesty" of the "golden splendor" of the 
sky, in a great degree accounts for the royal appearance 
of the bird. Aristotle said, "because of this high flight 
men consider eagles the only divine birds." 

"Her young ones also suck up blood." 






226 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

It is perfectly proper that they should. There are 
enough seed eaters to consume all the seed we want to 
spare; enough fruit lovers to tax our generosity in the 
orchards. Let the eagles drink blood if they like it; they 
are birds, and follow the course of their evolution. No 
one can argue with them or teach them a different way. 
They obey the dictates of their nature, which are the laws 
of the Almighty. There is no greater tragedy when the 
eagle snatches up a young lamb than when the butcher 
sends it to our tables dressed with green peas. Wise men 
rise to the requirements of the bird, and allow it the food 
it needs unmolested, as did Lord Breadalbane, one of the 
greatest of English peers, as a payment for the picture 
of the eagle's majestic form sweeping above his stretch 
of rocky coast. The beak and feet of the bird prove it 
a flesh-eater on sight. The lower mandible is short, the 
upper strong, with the sharp, curved tip for tearing flesh. 
Aristotle wrote that in age the beak of an eagle continues 
to curve until it closes the mouth, and it dies of starvation. 
He explained that this happened because the bird was 
once a man, and refused hospitality to a wandering 
stranger who asked protection. 

The great feet are strong, with long toes, having sharp 
talons for holding and carrying prey. Surely the young 
sucked up the blood of the living food carried them, as 
was their nature, and also tore it in pieces at early age, 
so their strength was developed. Isaiah and Ezekiel each 
wrote of "ravenous" birds, that undoubtedly were eagles, 

"And where the slain are, there is she." 

In New Testament times Jesus observed this, as Mat- 
thew and Luke record practically the same expression of 



THE EAGLE 227 

His: "For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles 
be gathered together." It is quite probable that vultures 
were gathered together over a carcass instead of many 
eagles; for they do not flock, as do vultures, but live a 
more solitary life in pairs. 

With their untiring flight, easily sailing many times 
the width or length of the country in a day, from the sea 
to the desert east of the Jordan, from Mt. Hor to the last 
range of Lebanon, even Egyptward over the great desert, 
these mighty birds followed the fortunes of war, travel, 
sacrifice, and accident. They were not always particular 
that the carcass should be fresh. Carrion not too ripe 
was an agreeable change. 

For this reason Moses headed the list of birds of abom- 
ination with them. The odor of the flesh must be ex- 
tremely strong and disagreeable, as well as the meat it- 
self, dark, and very tough. Eagles weigh lightly for 
their length and extent, because the spaces they range 
and their steady diet of meat keeps them very poor. No 
such thing as a fat eagle in freedom is known to the most 
exacting research of science. 

After summarizing all this, what is there necessary to 
know of the eagle not encompassed in this description by 
Job? The remainder of the natural history of the chapter 
that includes this is quite as comprehensive of the other 
subjects, and it contains not a trace of myth or super- 
stition. In contrast with it, Aristotle described three kinds 
of eagles. Of a black one he said: "It is swift, elegant, 
liberal, fearless, warlike, and of good omen; for it neither 
cries nor screams. This is the only one that rears and 
educates its young." He speaks of eagles circling in flight 
to avoid traps when watching for prey like hares, and 



228 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

he said that if an eagle thrust its young from the nest, the 
vultures took it up and fed it. 

Pliny discussed the eagle next after the ostrich and 
the phoenix, and in a manner which proved that he en- 
joyed his subject. In the beginning he said, "Eagles 
carry the price both for honor and strength." He de- 
scribed one species that was said to have teeth, and mixed 
some very good natural history w r ith much amusing tradi- 
tion. He said one eagle "hath a greedy and hungry worm 
always in her gorge and craw, and never is content, but 
whining and grumbling." He w r rote of a "mongrel, en- 
gendered of diverse sorts, called the ossifrage." He told 
of four eagles that had a stone called Gargates in their 
nests. "This stone is medicinal, and singular good for 
many diseases, and if it be put into the fire it will never 
a whit consume. Now this stone, as they say, is also with 
child ; for if a man shake it, he shall hear another to 
rattle and sound within, as it were in the belly or womb 
of it. But that virtue medicinable, above said is not in 
these stones, if they be not fallen out of the very nest 
from the aerie." 

How an eagle attacks a deer is described thus : "The 
eagles maintain battle with the red deer, even the stag and 
the hind. The manner of the eagle is, after she hath 
wallowed in the dust, and gathered a deal thereof among 
her feathers, to settle upon the horns of the deer afore- 
said, to shake the same off into his eyes, to flap and beat 
him about the face with her wings, until she drive him 
among the rocks, and there force him to fall down from 
thence headlong, and so break his neck." 

He also wrote that the eagle was so powerful, that if 
its wing quills were laid in a box among the feathers of 



THE EAGLE 231 

other birds, those of the eagle would "devour and con- 
sume all the rest." The more eagle history one reads by 
pagan writers, the more enjoyable become the majestic 
lines of the Christians, Moses, Job, Jeremiah, and Ha- 
bakkuk. 

Moses had something to say of the eagle in a beautiful 
song setting forth the mercy of God, in Deuteronomy: 

"For the Lord's portion is His people; 
Jacob is the lot of H s inheritance. 
He found him in desert land, 
And in the waste howling wilderness ; 
He compassed him about, He cared for him, 
He kept him as the apple of His eye. 

As an eagle that stirreth up her nest, 

That fluttereth over her young, 

He spread abroad his wings, he took them, 

He bear them on his pinions ; 

The Lord alone did lead him, 

And there was no strange God with him. 

He made him to ride on the high places of the 

earth, 

And he did eat the increase of the fields , 
He made him to suck honey out of the rock, 
And oil out of the flinty rock. 

Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of rams, 
And lambs of the breed of Bashan, and goats 
With the fat of kidneys of wheat ; 
And of the blood of the grape thou drankest wine." 

In the old version of the Bible this text reads, "As 
an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, 
spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them 
on her wings"- This is such atrocious natural history 
that I can not conceive how anv one ever attributed 



232 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

it to Moses, for he knew that if an eagle ever carried her 
young in flight she bore it in her talons. The revision 
makes this text clear, and the ornithology unquestionable. 

Moses, in speaking for the Almighty, also exclaimed 
with poetic utterance, in Exodus, "Ye have seen what I 
did unto the Egyptians, and how I bear you on eagle's 
wings, and brought you unto myself." Here he was 
merely using the bird's strength of wing in a symbolic 
manner to suggest that, like it, the Almighty would bear 
His children with His strength. 

Nebuchadnezzar dreamed that he was "driven from 
men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet 
with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like 
eagle's feathers, and his nails like bird's claws." So even 
unconsciously these people felt the impression of the power 
and ferocity of the bird, and in their dreams they saw 
it in terrifying pictures. In John's vision of the throne 
of God, one of the beasts, "full of eyes before and be- 
hind," was an eagle ; and in another vision he saw a woman 
to whom "were given two wings of a great eagle, that 
she might fly into the wilderness." The practice of add- 
ing the wings of an eagle as an emblem of strength and 
power was common in those days, and centuries before. 
Symbol writing is filled with bulls, lions, dragons, beasts 
of all kinds, and men, portrayed with eagle's wings. 

Once Daniel had a dream in which "four great beasts 
came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The 
first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings." Ezekiel 
spoke the parable and the riddle of the two eagles and 
the vine. In this vision the first eagle was seen natu- 
rally, save perhaps more brightly colored. "A great 
eagle, with great wings, long-winged, full of feathers, 



THE EAGLE 233 

which had diverse colors, came into Lebanon, and took 
the highest branch of the cedar." "There was also an- 
other great eagle, with great wings and many feathers." 
In speaking of long life, David used the eagle in 
comparison, as specimens have lived to a great age in 
captivity ; and how long in freedom, no one knows. In 
exhorting the people to bless God for His mercy, he cried : 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, 

And forget not all His benefits ; 

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities ; 

Who healeth all thy diseases ; 

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction ; 

Who crowneth thee with loving kindness and 

tender mercies ; 

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things ; 
So thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." 

In his great battle chant over the death of Saul and 
Jonathan, David used the eagle in comparison, and orig- 
inated two phrases that are every-day quotations with 
us: one concerning the keeping of a secret, and the other 
referring to close friends who go out of life together. 
After he had recovered somewhat from the shock of the 
news brought him by the Amalekite, who confessed he had 
killed Saul at his request, David broke forth: 

How are the mighty fallen ! 

Tell it not in Gath, 

Publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon ; 

Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, 

Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. 

Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain 

upon you, 

Neither fields of offerings : 

For there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, 
The shield of Saul, as of one not anointed with oil. 



234 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their 

lives, 

And in their death they were not divided : 
They were swifter than eagles, 
They were stronger than lions. 

Ye daughters of Israel, 

Weep over Saul, 

Who clothed you in scarlet delicately, 

Who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. 

How are the mighty fallen in the midst of battle ! 

Jonathan, slain upon thy high places. 

1 am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan : 
Very pleasant hast thou been unto me : 

Thy love to me was wonderful, 
Passing the love of women. 

How are the mighty fallen, 

And the weapons of war perished?" 

Another reference to the eagle is where Isaiah grew 
poetical in comforting the people of God, and addressed 
them thus: 

" Hast thou not known ? 
Hast thou not heard, 
That the everlasting God, the Lord, 
The Creator of the ends of the earth, 
Fainteth not, neither is weary ? 
There is no searching His understanding. 

He giveth power to the faint, 
And to them that hath no might 
He increaseth strength. 

Even the youth shall faint and be weary, 
And the young men shall utterly fall. 

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their 

strength ; 

They shall mount up with wings as eagles ; 
They shall run and not be weary ; 
They shall walk and not faint." 



THE SPARROW 

'Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house, 
Even Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King 
and my God." 

DAVID. 




SPARROW 



STRATTON-PORTER 



"IVfl, tlie sparrow hath found her an house." 



CHAPTER VII 
THE SPARROW 

UNDOUBTEDLY no other of the small birds included 
in the Hebrew "tzippor" was so friendly near houses and 
in gardens as the sparrow. It seems from the text that 
this word is indiscriminately translated "sparrow" and 
"birds" or "fowl," as it appears almost forty times in 
Bible text and is, as a rule, translated "bird," but again 
distinctively "sparrow." The word covered all small birds 
nearest sparrows in characteristics and habits, all of which 
were allowed for food. When the sparrow was designated 
it was, no doubt, in places where it best filled the require- 
ments of the text. 

All of these little brown birds of friendly habit that 
we think of as like our sparrows swarmed over the 
plains of Gennesaret. They were of plainer, more even 
color than ours, the same size, and of slightly varying 
families. We have at least sixty-seven different sparrows. 
Of these the chipping and song sparrows are birds of the 
small shrubs and bushes, and the ground sparrow nests 
on the earth. I believe all of these birds originated in 
Arabia, also our English sparrow, that is imported. Spar- 
rows are the domestic fowl of the wild, and since their 
history has been kept they have been noted for their love 
of man and their fearless disposition. 

In the north of Palestine, the land of Gennesaret, and 
on the west of the Sea of Galilee, there lies hilly country, 
plains, and fertile fields, scattered over with villages. 

239 



240 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Here, around the foot of Mt. Tabor and over the plains 
of Esdraelon, swarmed the sparrows, friendly little birds, 
seeking the protection of man. The bushes of every tiller 
of the soil, the vineyards of the wine-growers, and the 
orchards of fruit-raisers were filled with their lively chatter. 

The only mention Pliny made of the sparrow was to 
point out the neat little hop with which it traveled on the 
ground or on buildings. It flew in short stretches from 
bush to bush, and built a small beautiful nest. If this 
was placed in bushes, there was an outside of tiny sticks 
and twigs, and the inner lining of hairs wound round and 
round. Ground nests dispensed with the outside work, 
and in a little tuft of weeds or grass, which formed an 
arching cover, the small, round bowl of hair was placed, 
and in it from four to six bluish, speckled eggs. The 
old ones with endless chatter hunted food for the young, 
bringing to them in a day hundreds of tiny insects and 
worms. The feces were carried from the nest, so that on 
leaving it was immaculately clean and showed no sign of 
ever having been used. 

Because they nested so closely around houses and were 
so protected, they brought off their big broods in safety, 
and two or three in a year. Thus in congenial territory 
they soon increased to great numbers. They were very 
numerous west of Galilee almost to the coast. They nested 
in thorn, bramble, hazel, and juniper bushes, and among 
the grasses of earth. They built in the vineyards, and 
hunted worms and bugs on the citron, pomegranate, fig, 
and olive trees of adjoining orchards. 

While the women and children cultivated their onions, 
beans, mandrakes, lentils, melons, and cucumbers, the 
busy little sparrows nested among the small bushes or 




SPARROW STRATTON -PORTER 

"Xot one of them is forgotten in the sight of God." 



THE SPARROW 243 

on the gourd and grape vines covering the arbors and 
houses. Their notes made cheery accompaniment to the 
workers, and the birds were busy also; for the grape 
and big gourd leaves covered families of a half dozen, 
with mouths agape clamoring for food, and the happy 
little parents had to search over herb beds of mint and 
rue and the vines and bushes for worms. 

So that they were a part of the most intimate life of 
the people, and they were common residents of every gar- 
den and friendly with every one. They must have lived 
around great cities and homed near kingly palaces, for 
they are specifically mentioned twice by David, and several 
times collectively by men of wealth and high position. 
Not only the gardens of the lowly, but those cultivated 
by the servants of the wealthy, were appropriated by the 
cheery little sparrows. They were at home in Nazareth 
and Endor, and all the other villages rang with their 
happy notes. One after another of the Bible writers men- 
tioned them in their text. No doubt they were common 
in the garden of Mary at Nazareth, and sang to her as 
she worked, while Joseph was away carpentering. They 
were daily companions of Jesus near His humble home, 
when He was a child. Here we may be sure they were 
protected fully, as they expected to be when they located; 
for I know the boy Jesus did not throw stones at birds 
and tear down their nests. 

Moreover, sparrows were of the birds that claimed 
the shelter of the temple, so they would be protected when 
building in the vines, orchards, or gardens of any home. 
David said of them: 

Yea, the sparrow hath found her a house, 
Even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my 
King, and my God." 



244 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

I think I should have loved to worship in that great 
temple at Jerusalem, where the doves and the swallows and 
the sparrows were allowed to nest and raise their young 
unmolested. It appeals to me that all the choirs of ex- 
pensive singers that ever chanted anthems at divine service 
would not be half so pleasing to an Almighty God as 
the prayers of the faithful raised in that old temple with 
the accompaniment of the cooing of doves, the love-notes 
of swallows, and the mating ecstasy of the sparrows. For 
these birds are very sweet singers in almost every branch 
of the family, though some few are almost songless. 

Commentators are quite sure that the sparrow of David 
in the lines, "I watch, and am become like a sparrow that 
is alone upon the housetop," was not a sparrow. They 
think not, because these are such friendly birds that 
authorities are quite sure if there was one on the housetop 
there would be a half dozen, but there is a possibility that 
the text is right. Perhaps this friendliest of all birds 
had seen its mate snared out in the valley, or its nest de- 
stroyed in some way, and had made a deep impression on 
David because it was sitting in a lonely and solitary way 
for the short time that birds mourn. 

The Bible makes it evident that all temple birds 
were protected around houses ; but it also makes it equally 
plain that all small birds of unobjectionable habits were 
used for food. Out in the valleys, among the foothills, 
in the bramble and thorn thickets, the sparrows flocked 
and were snared and netted without mercy. This is the 
basis of the reason that they so love to build and find 
food near homes. Jesus asked, "Are not two sparrows 
sold for a farthing?" And again, "Are not five spar- 
rows sold for two farthings? and not one of them is for- 




SPARROW STRATTON-PORTER 

These friendly little birds nested in gardens. 



THE SPARROW 247 

gotten in the sight of God." These records by Matthew 
and Luke of the words of Jesus indicate that sparrows 
were used for food in those lands in Bible times, just as 
they are now. 

When the tiny birds are killed, skinned, opened, and 
strung upon wire and roasted, they are sold in Eastern 
markets for tidbits a bird to a mouthful. It almost 
would seem that God had forgotten them, but Jesus said 
He did not. This is probably the origin of the oft- 
quoted line, "He marks the fall of the sparrow." 

Further south, in Judea, the climate and location was 
not so congenial. There they did not flock, but were 
found in pairs. To-day in the Jordan Valley the thorn 
trees can be seen to be almost weighted down with nests, 
and sparrows are taken in the greatest numbers for food, 
so that it is truly a wise bird that finds a house for her- 
self. If it is the home of people, she is always sure of 
safety. If it is the house of the Lord, then, indeed, she 
has a refuge. 



THE OSTRICH 

"/ icill even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in 

the dust, 
The beasts of the field shall honor me, the dragons and 

the ostriches. 1 " ISAIAH. 




OSTRICHES 



CAWSTOX 



'What time he lifteth himself abroad 
He scorneth the horse and his rider." 



CHAPTER VIII 
THE OSTRICH 

Ix the thirty-ninth chapter of Job, which contains 
much fine natural history, we find the most that the Bible 
records concerning the ostrich. It seems that in translat- 
ing the Hebrew words "ya'anah," which mean "greedi- 
ness," and "bath haya'anah," "the daughter of greedi- 
ness," and which have reference to the indiscriminate diet 
of the ostrich, part of the time are rendered "ostrich," to 
which bird they apply ; and part of the time "owl," to 
which they do not. For, while the owl sometimes chokes 
itself swallowing whole some rather large prey it has taken, 
it is not a greedy or a promiscuous eater. The mere fact 
that it is a bird of darkness, and not always fortunate in 
capturing food, frequently leaves it very hungry. The 
bodies of owls are lean, like those of eagles. Neither was 
the owl habitual in several places mentioned by Isaiah and 
Jeremiah, where our old version is translated "owl" and 
undoubtedly should read "ostrich." 

The ostrich found its place in Bible history on ac- 
count of its voice, its companions, and its location. When 
disturbed or uneasy in the night, it raised a cry with 
a gutteral utterance like the roar of a lion. When it 
wandered to the northern borders of the desert of Shur, 
across the barren stretch of Idumea, or where Arabian 
sands meet vegetation along the eastern border of Pal- 
estine, its night moan was terrifying. Belated travelers 

253 



254 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

shuddered with fear ; the night watchers wrapped their 
cloaks closer around them, and strained their eyes peering 
into the darkness ; sleepers moved restlessly ; and the sick 
prayed for protection. The cry of the ostrich was added 
to many pictures of desolation because it was a fearful 
thing and people dreaded the sound. 

This bird did not keep agreeable company. Not only 
was its voice lifted in unison with the quavering owl and 
night hawk cries, but it lived at the edge of the desert, 
where the vulture and the eagle preyed ; where the bear 
and the* lion prowled; where the jackal yelped; where the 
asp and adder crawled from rocky caverns to sun on the 
sands, and the scorpion stung the unwary. It homed 
where wild men of the desert crept as close to civiliza- 
tion as they dared, and where thieves and robbers hid 
themselves to attack caravans coming from other lands. 
Unless travelers were mounted on fleet horses or camels, 
and journeying in large bands, these neighbors of the 
ostrich were none to be desired. No dweller of the spicy 
gardens of Lebanon, no harvester of the plains of Es- 
draelon or Samaria, no shepherd of rough Galilean hills, 
no fisher of the seas, and no merchant of the coast cared 
to become a "companion to ostriches." 

Their location w r as not only this fringe of wilder- 
ness approaching the desert, but it included the great ter- 
ror itself: the trackless miles stretching away for marches 
that were too often endless ; the yielding paths, oblit- 
erated by every contrary wind that blew ; the biting storms 
of blinding sands fine as powder ; the scorching sun beat- 
ing unobstructed until heat from earth arose to meet heat 
from heaven and the faces of men were burned and their 
flesh peeled from their bodies. Here to fail in locating 



THE OSTRICH 255 

water if the supply carried gave out meant to lie down 
in the heat and in parching agony await the final swoop 
of the lammergeier, the kite, and the eagle. The wilder- 
ness had its terrors; but there were small edible animals, 
wild grapes and honey, and water to support vegetation, 
so that there was some chance for life. The forlorn hope 
of stumbling upon an oasis was the only mitigation to 
the horror of the desert. So that of all the birds of the 
Bible that were used to inspire fear in those people to 
whom the desert stood a daily menace because they often 
were forced to breathe its scorching air, the ostrich, which 
made its home there, was the most effective. 
Once Job cried in agony : 

I go mourning without the sun, 

I stand up in the assembly, and cry for help. 

I am a brother to jackals, 

And a companion to ostriches. 

My skin is black and falleth from me, 

And my bones are burned with heat." 

This in the old version reads "owls," with a marginal 
reference to ostrich, which rather seems to leave you at 
liberty to take your choice. The first line, "I go mourn- 
ing without the sun," might seem to indicate the owl, 
were it not for the fact that this bird is not now, and 
never was, "a daughter of greediness." To be a com- 
panion to jackals, any bird would have had to haunt the 
edge of the desert, which is true ostrich country; also 
the sun on the hot sands soon would blacken and peel the 
skin, and even make the very bones feel "burned," as Job 
described. 



256 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Micah, when portraying the judgment which threat- 
ened Samaria, wrote: 

"For this I will wail and howl; 
I will go stripped and naked : 
I will make a wailing like the jackals, 
And a mourning like the ostriches." 

Here again the old version wavered between owl and 
ostrich, and most people, remembering the doleful night 
cries of the owl, gave it the preference in this instance. 
But the former definition is correct in all cases in which 
it is applied to the ostrich, and added to this is the fact 
that this bird sometimes cries fearfully in the night, and 
when it does, the owl is forgotten. African travelers 
have mistaken this sound for the hoarse roar of a lion ; 
one writer says the "lowing of an ox in great pain." 
Either of these cries would combine with the howling 
of the jackal in a picture of desolation as perfectly as 
the hooting of an owl. 

Isaiah, describing the fall of Babylon, prophesied: 

But wild beasts of the desert shall be there ; 
And their houses shall be full of doleful creatures ; 
And ostriches shall dwell there, 
And satyrs shall dance there." 

In this instance also the old version reads "owl," with 
the usual marginal reference to ostrich. The "daughter 
of greediness" would be in accustomed company with the 
"wild beasts of the desert;" but if the ruins of houses 
were to be occupied by birds, here is an instance where 
the owl would be perfectly at home, and there seems more 
probability that it was the bird intended. 




PAIR OF OSTRICHES 



CAWSTON 



'The iv'mg of the ostrich rejoiceth, 

But are her pinions and feathers kindly?" 



THE OSTRICH 259 

When Isaiah predicted utter destruction in Edom he 
left no room for discussion as to which bird was indicated 
by putting in both, for he said, "The owl and the raven 
shall dwell there," and a few lines further, "It shall be 
a habitation for jackals, and a court for ostriches." 

When the voice of the Almighty spoke out of the 
whirlwind to Job it said, as our latest version records these 
utterances : 

The wing of the ostrich rejoiceth ; 

But are her pinions and feathers kindly ? 

For she leaveth her eggs in the earth, 

And warmeth them in the dust, 

And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, 

Or that the wild beast may trample them. 

She is hardened against her young ones as if 

they were not hers : 

Though her labor be in vain, she is without fear ; 
Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, 
Neither hath He imparted to her understanding. 
What time she lifteth herself on high, 
She scorneth the horse and his rider." 

I am a little skeptical about the Almighty having said 
this. I think Job had one of those inspired flights of his 
and was so intensely in earnest that he felt he was record- 
ing divine thought. Part of this is good natural history 
and part is not. The Almighty, who planned and watched 
the evolution of the ostrich, would not have said several 
things here recorded. 

"The wing of the ostrich" had great reason to re- 
joice; it came so very near being no wing at all. But 
then it was only wonderful things that were touched upon 
in the whole of this thirty-ninth chapter of Job. 



260 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

It was a marvel that an ostrich should have wings 
and feathers ; for it had more attributes of a beast than 
any other bird of which I can think. It seems much more 
nearly related to the giraffe than to the eagle. The 
deserts of Africa evolved the noblest form of the bird, 
which bore thirst with camel-like stolidity. When this 
thirst grew unbearable, it broke open and ate the wild 
gourds and melons that were found near spots of moisture, 
as the lions and tigers are said to have done when hard 
pressed for water. 

It grew to a height of from six to eight feet and 
weighed from two to three hundred pounds. The neck 
was long, covered with down, through which the windpipe 
showed, and large bites could be seen to slide down the 
gullet. The bill was broad, flat, with a round tip, and 
the mandibles very flexible. The head was extremely 
small, compared with the body; but the eyes were large 
for the size of the head, and in centuries of straining 
them across the sands of the desert for animals colored 
so like it as to be inconspicuous, or dust-covered cara- 
vans of men, the ostrich developed powerful sight. 

The bare legs of the bird were long, strong, with 
muscles like steel bands from the immense distances trav- 
eled in searching for food or in fleeing from pursuers. 
It had a foot not far removed from the split hoof of the 
beast. The inner toe was seven inches long, with a claw- 
like hoof; and the outer smaller, with no claw. With its 
strength of leg and weight of toes it could strike a blow 
that made it immune from attack of animals of its haunts 
having the size and strength of a leopard. 

Pliny opened his discourse on the history of birds 
with the ostrich, of which he wrote: "They are the 



THE OSTRICH 261 

greatest of all other fowls, and in manner of the nature 
of four-footed beasts." After noting their ineffectual 
wings, the value of their feathers, and much other good 
history concerning them, he added this astounding state- 
ment : "Cloven hoofs they have like red deer, and with 
them they fight; for good they be to catch up stones 
withal, and with their legs they whurle them back as they 
run away against those that chase them." 

Its wings were a mere excuse for wing; the muscles 
soft and flabby. They would not nearly bear the weight 
of the bird, but in starting to run they were seen to be 
lifted and beaten as in flight. Of course, this assisted in 
attaining speed, or the bird would not have used them 
in this manner. When she was beating them in flight, 
no doubt she did appear as if she were waving them tri- 
umphantly and rejoicing in them; but when fleeing pur- 
suers at utmost speed, the wings were pressed close the 
sides. 

The body was covered with a soft, flexible feather- 
ing, the wings and tail growing long plumes. On the 
female, which w r as smaller than the male, the colors were 
a soft gray, mixed with white; the tail and wing plumes 
white. The male was a glossy black, combined with white, 
and white wing and tail plumes. 

The ostrich has three physical peculiarities which 
always stagger scientists. First it has eyelashes, as almost 
no other bird. I should say that these lashes were evolved 
in the desert life of the species. They would shade the 
eyeball and protect it from the brilliant rays of desert 
sun. When running in small flocks, as is the habit of 
the bird unless pursued, these lashes would help to keep 
dust from the eyes also. Then it has on each wing two 



262 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

plumeless shafts, like great porcupine quills. It is difficult 
to learn why they are there, but they may be helpful in 
defense when attacked. That they have some especial pur- 
pose, you may be sure. Nature is economical in providing 
anatomy, and all the parts given bird or man are neces- 
sary. Perhaps the queerest thing of all pertaining to this 
great beast-bird is that it has a bladder which collects uric 
acid like a mammal, the rarest organ of a feathered crea- 
ture on earth, I think. 

So here we have a big bird, standing eight feet in 
height, weighing three hundred pounds, with bare legs 
running and kicking as a horse ; long, curling plumes 
on wings and tail, eyelashes, and the bladder of a beast. 
The purpose of this chapter seems to have been to make 
Job feel his inferiority to the Creator. With such ques- 
tions as it contains hurled at him, no wonder poor Job 
cried out in agony and humbled himself even to sack- 
cloth and the ash-heap. 

Of all the queer compounds in nature, bird or beast, 
auk, stork, giraffe, kangaroo, alligator, or turtle, not one 
surpasses the ostrich as a compound of contradictory 
parts. What have eyelashes and exquisite long, curling 
plumes of snow to do with a beast having a bladder and 
capable of lifting a hoof and cracking like an eggshell 
the skull of a man? Well might Job humble himself 
before one of the greatest marvels of the Creator ! 

But are her pinions and feathers kindly ? 
For she leaveth her eggs on the earth, 
And warmeth them in the dust." 

The dread sands of the desert of Arabia, which Moses 
skirted on the south in his long journey to the Promised 



THE OSTRICH 265 

Land, extending across the lower end of the great salt 
sea and eastward into Syria, were the home of the ostrich 
known to Bible writers. There, where desert merged 
with vegetation, where the tropical sun streamed unob- 
structed, where the camel came in lolling from his long 
journey across the hot sands, and men covered their heads 
and fainted with heat, the ostrich left her eggs on the 
earth and warmed them in the dust. 

The only marvel is that they were not baked in the 
process. But it was to prevent this, no doubt, that she 
covered them, sometimes to the depth of a foot. Where 
no rain fell for long periods; where hot sunshine beat 
upon sand every day, driving warmth deeper and deeper, 
until heat began rising from earth to meet heat falling 
from the sun, it really seemed as if eggs might be left 
to hatch by themselves, as do our turtle eggs, which can 
not be brooded by the shell-encased mothers and must 
perforce be hatched by the rays of the sun, as were the 
ostrich eggs. But these early writers forgot to state that, 
when night began to approach, the birds returned to the 
nest and the father covered the eggs to keep their tem- 
perature from falling to a dangerous degree, and only 
left when the sun had risen and grown warm enough to 
take his place again. So the pinions and feathers of the 
male bird were "kindly," for they did warm the eggs 
when needful. In colder locations, and where there is 
nothing to cover eggs, ostriches in these days take turns 
in brooding. 

The nest of an ostrich is just a little hollow in desert 
sand, at the present, for C. G. Schillings, the greatest 
natural history photographer who ever penetrated Africa, 
secured a reproduction of a nest containing twenty-four 



266 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

eggs by the best count I can make. These eggs weigh 
three pounds each on an average, and their shells are so 
strong that they are made into drinking vessels by natives 
living near the haunts of the ostrich. It is the custom, 
on finding a nest, to take a long stick and draw out an 
egg and examine the state of incubation. If it has ad- 
vanced so as to spoil the egg for their use, the nest is 
left, and protected if possible. 

If the eggs are fresh, they are taken out, a few at 
a time, the operator keeping as far from the nest as pos- 
sible, so that no taint of his body remains around the loca- 
tion. If this can be done successfully, the birds will 
keep on laying; if not, they will desert and build another 
nest. They are eaten by natives, and have been tried by 
hungry Europeans. One egg is sufficient for a small 
family. There is a possibility that these are the eggs 
to which Job refers as having tasteless w r hites without salt. 

The number of eggs in a nest was due to the fact 
that the birds were polygamous. One male led a family 
of two to seven females. They deposited their eggs 
in a common nest. It was on account of this habit of 
several using one nest and leaving the sun to incubate 
in the middle of the day, while the birds ranged far for 
food, that the female became weaned from the habit of 
brooding. When several females owned a nest it was 
not easy to decide to which one it most belonged ; so all of 
them united in allowing the father to look after it, and 
they serenely enjoyed themselves w r hile he concerned him- 
self most about the nest and young. But at least half 
of the brooding was done by the ardent sun of the desert. 

"And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, 
Or that the wild beast may trample them." 



THE OSTRICH 267 

If the Almighty said she forgot, she did there can 
be no question about that but it occurs to me that it 
was wisdom on her part. Those eggs buried in the sand 
were not so conspicuous as when the bulk of a three- 
hundred-pound bird was covering them. For the out- 
skirts of the desert belonged to the natives, who strayed 
as far as they dared; and to the jackal, hyena, leopard, 
wolf, bear, lion, and to the vulture, hawk, and eagle soar- 
ing above, all of which were fond of great eggs and 
young birds. It would appeal to me that the eggs were 
much better protected from their natural enemies alone 
than when brooded, especially by the male. 

The colors of the female and the young were as if 
feathers had grown among the sands and rocks of the 
desert and fastened themselves to the backs of the birds. 
No finer exhibition of coloration that was a protection 
could be found among all the splendid examples of birds 
and beasts of desert wastes, red sands, and blackened 
vegetation. They seemed a part of their surroundings, 
and as inconspicuous as anything of their size could be. 
It was their great bulk which discovered them, for the 
desert folk all have sharp eyes, as well as the eagle and 
the hawk sailing above. So I really think the nest of the 
ostrich was safest in the heat of the day with the bird 
away from it. 

She is hardened against her young as if they were 

not hers ; 
Though her labor be in vain, she is without fear." 

The truth was .that in a communal nest the ostrich 
did not know which of the young were hers. One egg 
was very like another, and when six or seven hens placed 



268 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

two or three dozen eggs in one nest, and the male brooded 
at night and the sun by day, I am not going to believe 
that, when the young emerged, each mother knew from 
which egg her bird came. So she was not particularly 
"hardened against her young;" she was in ignorance of 
which of the young were hers. As this was the result 
of the evolution of the bird, it was scarcely fair to blame 
her for her nature. In lamenting over the sins of Zion, 
Jeremiah said: 

Even the jackals draw out the breast ; 
They give suck to their young ones : 
The daughter of my people is become cruel, 
Like the ostrich of the wilderness." 

So there must have existed, even in the beginning of time, 
among the earliest people, this idea that it was a cruel 
thing for the ostrich to leave her nest to the mercies of 
natives, beasts, and sun incubation. 

Neither do I believe the old story that the mother birds 
laid some of the eggs on the outside of the nest, so that 
the young would find food ready when they hatched. 
Like all other birds, the young would emerge provided 
with nourishment for the first day, and afterward this 
family is able to follow their elders stoutly, and pick 
up bits of food shown them. I think the truth was 
that in a communal nest several females often desired 
to deposit an egg at the same time, and as they could 
not all have the nest, those outside crowded as closely 
as possible, and laid on the sand. What else could they 
have done? And her labors were not altogether in vain. 
There were so many eggs in a nest that half of them 
could be lost and the birds still flourish. The ostrich lives 



THE OSTRICH 271 

on, when all other great birds of its size that used to stalk 
the earth are extinct. It was quite true that she seemed 
"without fear," for she was found near the edges of 
the desert and on spots of oases, living in perfect accord 
with herds of zebra, antelope, giraffe, and other animals 
that fed on vegetable diet. I scarcely think any one had 
seen her exhibit much fondness for jackals, wolves, leop- 
ards, bears, or tigers. 

Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, 
Neither hath He imparted to her understanding." 

There are several things to which this may refer. The 
bird may not have had the wisdom of the raven, but she 
did very well. She is still numerous in her haunts. Sum- 
ming up all the things that threaten her and her young, 
she is in luck to be alive and reproduce herself. I think 
she was wise when she placed her eggs as nearly in the 
nest as she could, if she could not get them inside. Pos- 
sibly human egg hunters would be satisfied with those 
outside, and animals also. 

When the sun could incubate her eggs as well as she, 
it seemed sensible to go away and have a good time. Her 
presence near the nest might be more of a menace than 
a protection. If other creatures did not see her, they un- 
doubtedly would hear if she talked, for her desert song 
was a roar. She had a harsh cackle, probably, when 
she successfully placed an egg, as a hen ; she said gentle 
things in pointing out food to young near her feet ; and 
hissed when attacked or angry. 

If she appeared unfeeling toward her young, the emer- 
gencies of her life had evolved those traits in her, and 
that she possessed them was not her fault. She followed 



272 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

the laws of her nature as did all of the wild ; and w r hile to 
me their ways are the marvel of creation, they very sel- 
dom become pitiful, because they are the laws of necessity 
and the same by which man has developed from the be- 
ginning. Nature is so very coldblooded that some of her 
processes seem distinctly cruel, viewed from a humane 
standpoint. That the ostrich did not fear for her young 
and hover over them was because of the communal nest 
and the fact that she did not often brood on her eggs; so 
she was not bound to her nest as most birds were which 
brooded day and night from nine to twenty-one days. 
Natives gave the fact that ostriches swallow large, hard 
objects indiscriminately, as one cause for thinking them 
foolish; another was that they would not swerve from a 
given course when pursued; and another that they run 
away from their young. 

Recent writers think that the old story of the ostrich 
hiding her head and feeling herself safe is not true. I 
have a sneaking belief in the story. It is so very plausible. 
In all time the bird has been pursued for its splendid 
plumage. Now on the desert, when it has run until it 
can go no longer, and when cover for its two or three 
hundred pounds' bulk would be very difficult to find, it ap- 
peals to me that it would be instinctive with the bird to 
select a spot that appeared to afford shelter, hide its head, 
and trust to its likeness to the surroundings for conceal- 
ment. With females and young this \vould be very pos- 
sible. With the male's stronger coloring it would not be 
so easy. But it appeals to me as the thing which would 
happen naturally. 

"What time she lifteth up herself on high, 
She scorneth the horse and its rider." 



THE OSTRICH 273 

In good condition an ostrich could run half a day, 
or even longer, and could acquire and sustain a speed of 
sixty miles an hour for the first part of the journey. 
Pursuers on swift Arabian horses could only hope to 
overtake the birds by resorting to a strategy they could 
not fathom. While they were accused of being indif- 
ferent to their nest and young, these birds had places 
that were home, and that they did not like to leave. 
So when pursued, instead of running in a straight line, 
they circled around their location in great rings. Hav- 
ing learned this, mounted men took cross cuts and inter- 
cepted the birds, thus capturing them in a circular flight 
when they could not have been overtaken in straight. 
With long, bare legs skimming the sands of the desert ; 
with lifted, beating wings to give impetus ; able to bear 
thirst like the camels; these great birds fled across coun- 
try when pursued, leaving a trail of dust behind them 
as they flashed over dry sands, past oases, grass, and palm 
on and on in one great circle until exhausted. So they 
lifted themselves on high, and in very fact scorned the 
horse and rider who followed in straight chase. 

Because the ostrich is included among the Birds of the 
Bible, it may well be inferred that it is one of the an- 
cients of bird history. It was in the earliest Mosaic lists 
of abominations for food. The old bird soon grew ex- 
tremely tough and rank in flesh, and lived to eighty years 
in captivity. There was nothing in its diet to make it 
unfit for men to eat. It lived on vegetables and tropical 
fruits, which it found where desert touched oasis, moun- 
tain, and fertile plain. It swallowed large, hard pieces 
of food, and then, as small birds used tiny pebbles in 
masceration, these big birds picked up large ones. As 



274 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

the young birds would be of tender flesh, I can see no 
reason why they should not have been eaten as well as 
the eggs; and no doubt they were, by desert tribes. 

They are of the birds which have been considered 
among the prerogatives of royalty, as history tells us 
that the cruel and wicked Roman emperor Elagabalus 
had ostrich brains served at feasts 204 A. D. This ap- 
pears quite as bad as dishes of larks' tongues and pea- 
fowl brains, upon which these awful men loved to feast. 
Surely the world is growing infinitely better. Even an 
emperor who did such things now would not be safe from 
the sentiment of the people. 

The beautiful feathers of the birds have been used as 
decorations for royalty, female hat and hair ornaments, 
male lodge paraphernalia, and as an emblem of royalty. 
Three white ostrich plumes are the badge of the Prince 
of Wales to-day. So wonderful are ostrich feathers, and 
so prized, that enough of them could not be secured from 
the wild birds of Asia, Africa, and a slightly different 
species in South America ; so men have gone into the busi- 
ness of importing, taming, and breeding these birds in 
suitable locations. 

With us they thrive in the climate of California, Ari- 
zona, or Florida, and a number of farms have been estab- 
lished on which many birds are raised, and are very profit- 
able. One male is given two females and several acres of 
ground, for the birds must have range to be healthy. The 
eggs are laid upon the earth and brooded over more in our 
colder climate than in their native home. Some breeders 
use incubators. The Cawston Ostrich Farm, of Pasadena, 
allows the females to make their nests and raise their young 
under as nearly natural conditions as possible. 




YOUNG 



Ostrich orphans. 



THE OSTRICH 277 

The feathers are exquisite on captive birds, as they 
can be carefully tended, allowed to grow full size, and 
picked at perfection. Of course, they are judiciously se- 
lected, trimmed, curled, and colored before being marketed. 
Imported birds at feather-producing age are valued at 
five hundred dollars each. Their plumes can be plucked 
more frequently than you would think, and while single 
feathers average about seven dollars each, long ones are 
fastened together in great fluffy, delicately colored plumes 
over a yard in length, of many spines thickness, of every 
delicate tint of the rainbow, and selling from forty to a 
hundred dollars. 

But I wish I had just one fine, long single feather 
dropped naturally by a bird as it crossed the hills of 
Edom in changing feeding grounds from Arabia to Syria ; 
or along the foothills of the Lebanon range where it meets 
the desert. Then that plume would symbolize to me not 
only all the great and noble bird means, not all a thing of 
beauty represents, but it would be the key to a vision in 
which I would see the tawny hot sands of the glowing 
eastern desert, the purple skies, the shimmering palm- 
shaded pools of water, the wilderness like unto that in 
which John cried out, and the long line of swaying camels 
starting across the trackless sands, perhaps on the way 
to Babylon. 



THE COCK AND HEN 

"How often would I have gathered tliy children together, 
Even as a hen gathereth her own brood under her wings, 
And ye would not!" LUKE. 



CHAPTER IX 
THE COCK AND HEN 

SEVERAL of the disciples quoted Him, but Jesus Him- 
self was responsible for the only direct mention of what 
we call "domestic fowl," in the Bible. It was the con- 
stant practice of the Great Teacher to draw comparisons 
and similes from objects in sight of His hearers, and 
much of the striking force of His work is due to this 
ability to point a moral from simple homely things, so 
that all hearers received the full force of the illustra- 
tions. He was never seeking after oratorical effects, and 
never trying to prove how much He knew. On the con- 
trary, it seemed to be a continual purpose to point out 
to His followers the commonest things of life, and surprise 
them with how much they knew that they had not realized. 

If you watch an audience which a speaker is trying 
to daze with his mental attainments, you may see mouths 
slightly agape; but you will see cold, hard faces. But 
if the talker has the wit to "point his moral, and adorn 
his tale" with illustrations his audience recognizes, you 
will observe heads nodding approval, and smiling faces 
aglow with working brains. This was always the method 
of Jesus. He noted every simple, common thing along the 
way, and when He came to speak, the parable of the mus- 
tard-seed, the sower, and the net that was cast into the 
sea went straight to the heart of every hearer. When 
He made comparisons, the house on the sand, the foolish 

283 



284 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

virgins, and the brooding hen served as nothing else could 
to convince followers of the points He strove to make. 
His simple, forceful, plain speech made David, Isaiah, 
and Solomon seem just a trifle grandiloquent in compari- 
son. When you read His sayings you are in home coun- 
try. You can lay aside your commentary, He explains 
Himself. 

One of the most frequently quoted expressions of Jesus 
was suggested by a common, brooding hen. Darwin said 
the red jungle fowl of India was the "parent stock of the 
domestic races." It was found in the Philippines, India, 
China, and Malay Peninsula. In plumage it most re- 
sembled the black-breasted game fowl of to-day. Its na- 
tive home was in great forests, deep jungles, and thickets; 
and where cultivation crept near those places it came out 
in small parties to the fields, and searched for food. Hunt- 
ers in these forests observed in it the inclination to wake 
the day and sound the night bugle, just as do its descend- 
ants. Its voice was described in tone as exactly that of 
a bantam, but its crow w r as short, shrill, and of peculiar 
strained effect, as if the utterance hurt the throat of the 
bird. No doubt those fowl would have been frightened 
half to death to have heard the good full-throated roar 
of their Shanghai, Bramah, or Cochin-China descendants 
drawn out with full artistic effect. If there was nothing 
else to indicate the homes in w T hich our breeds originated, 
those names would serve. 

Wild hens nested in the grass, deposited from ten to 
twelve white eggs, and brooded when they finished lay- 
ing, so that all the young arrived at the same time. This 
habit of the wild fowl, partridges, and quail is the basis of 



THE COCK AND HEX 285 

our custom of saving eggs and setting a hen on a nestful. 
It is nature's way, and is best, in a natural state at least. 

There is a gray jungle fowl in India that has even 
more of a peculiar broken crow ; another species in Java, 
and the Cingalese jungle fowl of Ceylon is also of un- 
usual voice. All of these will breed in captivity with do- 
mestic fowl, but their young are always sterile hybrids. 
Nature seems to keep each family distinct in this way, 
and 3~et it would seem that in the origin of species cross- 
ing was responsible for new forms. But there is a law 
that perhaps we have not yet learned fully. 

I have been watching the efforts of Bob Burdette 
Black, a man greatly interested in nature study, to cross 
the golden pheasant with the common bantam in the hope 
of domesticating a beautiful bird resembling a pheas- 
ant on his premises. In his first attempt he placed the 
pheasant-bantam eggs in a common nest, and all of them 
spoiled. Then he bethought him that the pheasant 
brooded on the ground, and on the next trial he placed 
the eggs on earth. A large per cent hatched, and he 
used his usual methods with young chicks; but they all 
died. After repeated attempts he found a little brown ban- 
tam hen one morning with three young, and in disgust 
he turned them out to shift for themselves. They took 
to grass as ducks take to water, and all three lived, and 
grew finely, proving that something besides a cat was killed 
with care. 

One of these chicks was the dark mother-color, two 
were beautiful gold with dark tail bands, wing and throat 
mottlings. All had pheasant legs, shape of body, and 
head. None had the red wattles, or the gay neck plum- 
age. All had tails standing straight back instead of erect, 



286 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

and decorated with the long feathers of the pheasant. 
Their sex could not be determined without killing them, 
but the tails seemed to indicate that they were nearest 
male birds. The dark one, which Mr. Black thought most 
likely to be a hen, strayed, and gave no clue to her habits. 
She wandered far over the premises, and along the river. 
Once she frightened me by slipping like a snake through 
deep grasses, where I lay hiding with a set camera. She 
came weaving toward me exactly as a monstrous snake, 
and that slender, dark head and neck shot into my view. 
One day Mr. Black found her food-hunting in perfect 
felicity with a flock of quail. 

The golden birds which he thought nearest males were 
much more domestic. They staid with the chickens, 
and came regularly to food and water, and the enclosure 
of the park at night. They might have wandered through 
the surrounding wheat fields, meadows, and orchards as 
w r idely^ as their dark relative, had they chosen. When 
spring came they refused to mate, either with bantams 
or pheasants, and showed no signs of egg-laying, so we 
concluded they were hybrids. Then, to our amazement, 
one of the supposed males, the biggest, brightest one, 
having the longest tail, showed a disposition to brood. 
The bird w r as supplied with a nestful of pheasant-ban- 
tam eggs and brooded them faithfully. 

I made a study of the nest, and another of the brood- 
ing bird, although the shadow from the top of the box 
hid the decorative tail feathers. Three days before time 
to hatch, and when we were pluming ourselves on what 
a "great picture" the pheasant-bantam would make when 
its long tail waved over its brood, came a terrific thunder- 
storm, which killed every chick. Before this the color, 



THE COCK AXD HEX 287 

warmth, and weight of the eggs, and at the last examina- 
tion discernible motion, proved them lively. Then, as 
this was July, we fixed our hopes on the next season, but 
by that time the bird had roamed so much it showed no 
inclination to brood. All of these specimens are now liv- 
ing, hardy, and running at large around the premises, the 
gold ones perching with the poultry at night. They are 
three and one-half years old, and the plumage is the same 
as in the first year. 

This is to me proof that all our domestic fowl are 
dependent upon insistent breeding along one line to pro- 
duce different members in the same family; and not upon 
crossing of different parent stems. An infusion of new 
blood of the same kind makes a marked improvement in 
a family. 

Every indication seems to point to the fact that these 
red jungle fowls were first caught, tamed, and bred in 
captivity in Burmah. Chinese traditions have it that they 
first imported fowls from the west 1400 B. C. In the 
book of Maim, dating from 1200 to 800 B. C., the use 
of wild fowl was permitted for food; but they had their 
suspicions of the tame ones, and prohibited their use, as 
if domestication might poison them. 

From these countries fowl were imported to Greece, 
Italy, and crossed the Mediterranean to the Holy Land. 
Homer did not mention these birds, although in his writ- 
ings a man named Cock may have derived his name from 
them. Nothing even slightly resembling them is found 
among the birds of symbol writing of Ancient Egvpt. 
Pindar notes them slightly, and Aristophanes calls them 
a "Persian bird," which indicates that they worked their 
way west by importations. Aristotle did not- write of 



288 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

them, but in the times of Aristophanes they were well 
known, as is proven by this dialogue between Pisthetairus 
and Euelpides: 

Pisthetairus "Of this, therefore, we have many 
proofs, that, not the gods, but the birds, were rulers and 
kings over men in ancient times. For example, I will first 
point out the cock to you, how he was sovereign and ruler 
over the Persians, before all, before Darius, and Mega- 
byzus. So that he is still called the Persian bird, from 
that his domain." 

Euelpides "On this account, then, even now, he only 
of the birds struts about with the turban erect on his head, 
like the great king." 

Pisthetairus "And so powerful was he, and great, and 
strong at that time, that still even now, on account of 
that power of his at that time, when he merely crows at 
dawn, all jump up to their work, braziers, potters, tan- 
ners, shoemakers, bathmen, corn factors, lyre-turners, and 
shield-makers: and they trudge off, having put on their 
shoes in the dark." 

And again, in selecting a ruler for the city of the 
birds, Pisthetairus inquired, "Who, then, will command 
the Pelargicon of our city?" Epops replied, "A bird 
from our company, of the Persian race, which is said 
every where to be the most terrible, the chicken of Mars." 
Euelpides replied, "O master chicken ! How fitted is the 
god to dwell upon the rocks !" 

They were common in Italy in the days of Pliny, who 
was ten years old at the time of the Crucifixion. His 
history contains instructions for the feeding of chickens, 
mating, brooding, choosing eggs, the diseases of sick hens, 
and the remedies. He dwelt largely on the bravery 



THE COCK AXD HEX 291 

and knowledge of the cocks, calling them "sentinels and 
astronomers." He ended a tribute to their fighting powers 
with the statement that "the very lions (which of all wild 
beasts be most courageous) stand in fear and awe of them, 
and will not abide the sight of them." He gave an ac- 
count of a barnA'ard fowl that spoke. It belonged to one 
Galerius, in the time of the consuls Lepidus and Catulus. 

He recorded that the first man of Rome who devised 
a "coupe" to keep fowl in and "cram" them to fatness 
so that their meat would be of delicate color and fine 
flavor, was Lenius Strabo. He also told of an old law 
made by Caius Fannius, a consul of Rome, providing that 
no man should serve at his table more than one hen, and 
that a "runner only, and not fed up and crammed fat." 
But he said this law was evaded by feeding cocks and 
capons on a paste of meade soaked in milk, that made 
their flesh so fine and tender they could be eaten instead 
of hens. 

He presaged the incubator by saying that eggs were 
hatched in manure beds in Egypt; that a man or woman 
might germinate eggs with the heat of the body, or that 
chickens could be produced by frequently turning eggs 
over a slow fire of chaff. He was of the opinion that if 
a brooding hen heard a hawk cry, her eggs would be 
marred. He recommended an iron nail under the straw 
of a nest as a remedy "against the spoiling of eggs bv 
thunder." His writings of the choosing of eggs for set- 
ting, the methods of preserving them, and the general 
care of fowl, prove chickens to have been common enough 
in his time that their habits and care were well under- 
stood in Rome, although they were still so rare that they 
were protected by law. 



292 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

The records of Babylon six and seven hundred years 
before Christ contain figures intended for fowl. They 
were well reproduced on marble carvings from Lycia six 
hundred years B. C. These drawings are either of the 
wild birds or of the tamed, before the erection of the tails, 
which have the droop of the wild estate. No one seems to 
know exactly when the bird assumed its present upright 
bearing and erect tail feathers. 

We can only guess when chickens entered the Holy 
Land, but we know that they were imported. There is 
no mention of them that can be considered at all accurate 
in the Old Testament. In the first chapter of Genesis, 
Moses, in recording the history of creation, wrote: "And 
God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the mov- 
ing creatures that hath life, and fowl that may fly above 
the earth in the open firmament of heaven." In the 
seventh chapter Noah was to take into the ark "of fowls 
of the air by sevens, the male and the female ; to keep 
the seed alive upon the face of the earth." The birds men- 
tioned as having been in the ark are doves and ravens. 
The same term is used repeatedly where it is expressly 
stated that the "fowl" were pigeons and doves. 

David spoke of the "fowls of the heaven, which sing 
among the branches," and the singing proves they were 
not chickens. When he exhorted all "flying fowl" to 
praise the Lord, the flying precluded poultry. Chickens 
never were classed among birds of flight, even in their 
wild estate. In First Kings, in the enumeration of the 
long list of food required to furnish the table of Solomon 
for one day, there are mentioned "ten fat oxen," twenty 
oxen out of the pasture, and an hundred sheep, beside 
harts, and roebucks and fallow deer and fatted fowl," 



THE COCK AXD HEX 293 

these, as in previous and following instances, were doves 
and pigeons, or they might have been geese and ducks, 
for, while not abundant, they were found in small num- 
bers, and very good food when tender with much fat. 

In the New Testament I can find no mention of 
chickens save in the records of the life of Jesus. His 
use of them indicated that they were universally known 
as our domestic fowl of to-day. In one instance the trans- 
lation reads "chickens," which I had thought a more re- 
cent word. Our record of time began with the birth of 
Christ, and the domestication of the bird seems so com- 
plete then, that it will be safe to place its importation 
into Galilee at about five or six hundred years previous 
by a rough guess; Italy knew them well at that time. 

Then chickens were centuries nearer their origin than 
they are now and, no doubt, remained the same in color, 
form, and voice. So I think the crowing of the cocks 
of Galilee was similar to their wild progenitors in tone 
and volume. When scientists of the last few centuries 
take to breeding by selection of the finest, in an incredibly 
short time they produce different shape, color, and char- 
acteristics; but I doubt if much of the work had been 
done on chickens in Bible times. I may be mistaken about 
this, for the finest fancy pigeons in the world are bred 
there to-day, and it may be by men descended from 
pigeon and poultry breeders of times long past. There 
is to support the theory, that as early as Bible days men 
had tamed wild horses, asses, and wolves, and bred them 
down to war horses, beasts of burden, and sheep dogs. 
That a wolf should be the ancestor of a sheep dog seems 
a complete characteristic revolution for an original sheep 
killer. 



294 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

When we read the admonition of Jesus to His follow- 
ers, "Watch ye, therefore; for ye know not when the 
master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or 
at the cock-crowing, or in the morning," we think of the 
long-drawn, lusty salute to dawn of our country and vil- 
lage cocks. But I believe the sound to have been shorter, 
shriller, and wilder, and it was earlier. It began at mid- 
night for the first round, followed near two by a second 
salute, and a little after four began the regular full 
chorus which Aristophanes said sent laborers to their 
tasks. 

Fowl are next mentioned when Peter assured Jesus 
that, though all others might be offended with Him, he 
would not ; and Jesus, knowing the shallows of his nature, 
warned him, "Verily I say unto thee that this day, even in 
this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny 
Me thrice." What followed was painful, and a poor 
commentary on human nature. When Jesus was led 
away to His doom, Peter remained, and stole in among 
the servants of the high priest, and warmed by the fire. 
A maid came by and accused him of having been among 
the followers of Jesus, and he denied it, saying, "I know 
not, neither understand I w T hat thou sayest. He went 
out into the porch, and the cock crew." Again the maid 
accused him, and Peter grew more emphatic. Then the 
men around reminded him that his speech was Galilean, 
and he began to curse and swear, and denied Christ ut- 
terly. And again the cock crew. I am very sure it 
was a wild, shrill, and soul-stirring sound, for then Peter 
remembered, and sat down, and wept. I am sorry that 
our brave and useful domestic bird had to play even an 
unconscious part in the world's greatest tragedy ; but the 



THE COCK AND HEX 295 

bird was unconscious, and therefore came off well beside 
the weak, dishonored man. 

The hen figured in happier history? and in one of the 
most expansive and poetic expressions of Jesus. She 
must have been thoroughly domesticated by that time, 
and common with her brood around her all along Canaan 
wavs, and the exquisite picture of motherhood she made 
had been observed carefully. In reproving Jerusalem, the 
Master cried out : 

" O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killeth the prophets, 
And stonest them that are sent unto her ! 
How often would I have gathered thy children 

together, 
Even as a hen gathereth her own brood under her 

wings, 
And ye would not ! ' ' 

In recording the history of the same scene, Matthew 
used the words, "Even as a hen gathereth her chickens 
under her wings, and ye would not !" 

I am a daughter of an ordained minister of the Lord, 
and all my early life I was surrounded by an atmosphere 
of worship, and reverence for all things "whatsoever are 
pure, holy, and right." Yet I never laid hold on Bible 
history or felt its people and places a personal possession 
until I studied it scientifically for the material of this 
book. To make plain which birds were used, and their 
appropriateness to the text, I was compelled to have a 
clear understanding of the time, place, and people. In 
gaining this I found what I lacked in Bible teaching. I 
did not know places and people; I knew only the spiritual 
side, most of which is complex for well-informed adults, 
and beyond the comprehension of children entirely. The 



296 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

young try to have faith and believe because they are told 
they should; but in the end their faith seems to fade, and 
they are not the stout believers on which the foundations 
of a Church should rest. 

With all deference I would make this suggestion to 
ministers and Sabbath-school teachers: Root and ground 
your audiences and pupils in the geography of Bible lands, 
in the time of the world's history, in the animals, in the 
flowers, in the birds, in the customs, and in the people. 
Make them fully understand that it was a real place, 
filled with the most interesting of real things. Put away 
the spiritual side of the Bible for a time, that children 
especially can not grasp, and give them proper founda- 
tion on which to build. Teach them the disposition and 
character of each man from what he wrote and his man- 
ner of expression. Depict his surroundings, what he wore, 
ate, and saw. These are the things in which people are 
interested concerning living writers ; and after all the Bible 
is only a record of the life and religious traditions of a 
past age, by a number of different men. To-day, if we 
like what a man writes, we want to meet him, to know 
where and how he lives, his habits and surroundings, and 
many things, little of our affair, no doubt, but still it is 
human nature to want to know. After all, a man's brain- 
work- is himself, and if he makes it public he must expect 
in a measure to become public also. 

No child can grasp the idea of the Trinity, of Trans- 
figuration, or the Resurrection; but they can learn trees, 
flowers, birds, exquisite poems, and people. Then, with 
maturity, the spiritual side of the question will develop 
itself. Victor Hugo expressed my thought perfectly when 
he wrote : "The religious fact is not the Church ; it 



THE COCK AND HEX 299 

is the opening of the rose; it is the breaking of the 
dawn; it is the nesting of the bird. The religious fact 
is nature, holy and eternal." Much Bible teaching is at 
fault in this. It sets children following forms they do 
not understand, as the sacrament ; and trying to make 
realities out of things they can not comprehend, as the 
Godhead. Get them to grasp firmly what they can re- 
alize, and as their brain develops, so will spiritual insight. 

Studying the methods of Jesus, a simple man of Gali- 
lee, without the educational opportunities of Moses, David, 
or Isaiah, yet the Founder of the world's greatest re- 
ligion, I have tried to learn wherein lay His grip and His 
mighty power with the people of His time and the mil- 
lions yet to be born. I find it lies in His extreme sim- 
plicity and clearness. It lies in His ability to use nature 
effectively : to select examples for illustration which needed 
no explanation, for every one knew they proved them- 
selves. He led people for the most part as unassuming 
as Himself, and His wonderful power lay in the fact 
that He taught them within the bounds of their compre- 
hension. Now can not you take a hint, and follow His 
methods literally? Lead your flocks and scholars across 
the fields, through the valleys and forests, and teach them 
the great and awful marvel of nature; and you will find 
them rooted and grounded in unshakable belief in the Al- 
mighty before you realize it. 

So much has been taught of the spirit, and so little 
of matter, that children do not grasp the personality of 
Jesus himself. Recently a hard-riding, football, tennis- 
playing boy of fourteen said to his mother, "I wish the 
law would compel people to quit making pictures of 
Jesus." Properly shocked, the mother asked why. 



800 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

"Well," argued the boy, "none were made while He lived. 
They are not real portraits. They are just somebody's 
idea, and I think Jesus is too sacred to put into a picture 
unless it is a real likeness. 9 ' Further talk developed the 
boy's thought. It was his idea that the man who had 
the power to make people drop their work and follow 
Him in a flock, who had the courage to brave storms and 
horrible diseases and go into Jerusalem when He knew He 
would be crucified, did not have a face like a woman, and 
he did not believe His pictures were true likenesses. No 
other man of His race, or anywhere near His time, looked 
anything like these pictures of Jesus, and he thought 
Him a "lot more of a man." He wished "they would 
burn all the fancy pictures in existence, and if there were 
no real portraits, find a fellow a true description, and let 
him think out his own picture." 

In searching for the material of this chapter, the 
difference between the methods of Jesus and that of min- 
isters of to-day has been so marked that these thoughts 
have come to me, and essentially I believe they are right. 
For the benefit of this manly little fellow, and all others 
in like perplexity, I will quote in this chapter, devoted to 
birds mentioned by Jesus alone, the personal description 
of Him submitted to the Roman senate by Publius Lentu- 
lus, who was sent an especial envoy to Judea to watch and 
report what he saw: 

"He is a man of stature somewhat tall and comely, 
with a very reverend countenance, such as the beholder 
must love and fear. His hair is the color of a chestnut 
full ripe, plain to the ears, hence downward more orient, 
curling, and waving about the shoulders. In the midst 



THE COCK AXD HEX 301 

of His forehead is a stream or partition in his hair, after 
the manner of the Nazarites. His forehead is plain and 
very delicate. His face is without spot or wrinkle, and 
beautiful with a lovely red color. His nose and mouth 
so marked as can not be described. His beard is thick, 
in color like His hair, and not over long. His look mature^ 
but innocent. His eyes gray, quick, and clear. In re- 
proving He is terrible, in admonishing courteous, and 
fair spoken; pleasant in conversation, mixed with gravity. 
It is not recorded that any have seen Him laugh, but 
many have seen Him weep. His proportion of body is 
most excellent ; His hands and arms delightful to behold." 
The boy is right. The accepted pictures of Jesus 
are not true. They bring to mind a rather frail, very 
dark man, with a sad woman's face. This word picture, 
brought from Judea to Rome by a critical unbeliever, 
represented a rather tall man of light complexion, gray 
eyes, almost red hair and beard, and despite great beauty 
His eyes were "quick," there were things in His face to 
"fear," and He could be "terrible." This picture makes 
you believe He could and would do the things He did. 
It makes for you a vision of a flesh-and-blood man who 
for years lived an outdoor life of constant travel, unpro- 
tected from almost tropical sun and wind. A man with 
physical force to drive the money-changers from the 
temple, with the courage to face disease and death, and 
with the intellect to preach the Sermon on the Mount and 
pray the Lord's Prayer. A man who could lead other 
men like flocking sheep across hill and valley, over water 
and plain, while He pointed out how the Almighty illus- 
trates human life by the tiny grain of mustard-seed, flower, 



302 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

rock, wind, wave, animal, and bird. In this picture I 
materialize a physical man, and I can see His bright face, 
pain-swept, as He stretched out His arms and cried: 

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 
How often would I have gathered thy children 

together, 
Even as a hen gathereth her chickens under 

her wings, 
And ye would not." 



THE HAWK 

'Doth the hawk soar by thy wisdom? 
And stretch her wings toward the south?" 

JOB. 





HAWK 



STRATTON-PORTER 



A hawk could sail the length of the Holy Land many 
times in a day. 



CHAPTER X 
THE HAWK 

"Doth the hawk soar by thy wisdom?" was one of the 
confounding questions hurled at Job in his great thirty- 
ninth chapter, that contains so much natural history. His 
reply was not ready, and nearly six thousand years later 
the question remains unanswered. The greatest thing any 
of us have learned concerning the flight of the hawk, or 
any bird, is that it depends on balance. To mount above 
cloud, to soar, to sail, to poise hanging in air as does the 
hawk, is possible only when the bird balances perfectly. 
Two primary feathers lost from the tip of one wing, and 
these powers of flight are gone. How many ages and 
what slowly evolving chains of circumstances were re- 
quired to lift a serpent from the sea, cover it with great 
feathers, and set it sailing out of the range of our vision, 
only the Almighty can tell: Job knew no more about it 
than we. 

Many members of any one of two families might have 
been intended by this question. If it referred to the won- 
derful power of flight of the hawk, how she stretched her 
wings toward the south, and sailed directly into the eye 
of the sun until men could not follow her for blinding 
their vision, it might have meant any great-winged hawk 
of strong flight. Birds such as we think of when we 
remember Cooper's hawk, or any relative of its size. 

But if "stretching her wings toward the south" re- 

307 



308 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

f erred to migration, then we must think of the smaller 
hawks, such as we include in the falcon f amity, because 
these are birds which retired to the south for the winter 
season, in Bible lands. The large hawks were all the year 
residents. 

Of these there seemed to be almost as many families 
as we have to-day, but the Hebrews had a way of cover- 
ing many members of a species with one small word which 
expressed a characteristic of all. For illustration, "glede" 
seems to refer to a bird of especially keen vision. That 
might be an eagle, hawk, or vulture, any or all of 
which have sight past our conception ; but of them all 
a certain species of hawk is supposed to have the sharpest 
eyes, so our translators have called that branch of the 
hawk family the "glede." 

In Leviticus and Deuteronomy the word "ayah" is 
translated hawk, and undoubtedly refers to the same bird 
we call a hawk to-day. The fact that even a small portion 
of their food is carrion explains why Moses found them 
unfit to eat, even every species he names, and all of 
them "after their kind." With us any bird that is 
large enough to carry off a small chicken is a chicken 
hawk, regardless of family. Any bird that has a hawk- 
like appearance is a hawk, no matter what it is doing. 
The little dusky falcon that perches on a telephone wire 
and sweeps the meadows for grasshoppers, and the great 
birds of twenty-seven inches length that soar beyond sight, 
are hawks; and everything of hawklike appearance be- 
tween these two extremes is the same. So we are in no 
position to criticise the vagueness of the Biblical mention 
of any bird. 

Aristotle said two startling things of these birds: 



THE HAWK 309 

that they changed their method of hunting, and did not 
seize their prey in the same manner in summer as they did 
in winter ; also that they never ate the heart of their vic- 
tim. Pliny indorsed this last statement. He said, "Hawks 
are divided into sundry and distinct kinds, by their greedi- 
ness more or less, and their manner in chase and preying." 

All over Palestine great hawks were common, the 
largest of them over two feet in length, with flat heads, 
hooked beaks, strong, sharp talons, e} T es with the keenest, 
most comprehensive look of any living bird, and long, 
pointed wings, on which they could sail the length and 
breadth of the Holy Land several times a day. It is a 
remarkable fact that you will see the birds of cloud spaces 
sailing and soaring only in clear weather, which does not 
mean that they are flying on damp, rainy days, and you 
can not see them ; but that mist interferes with their vision, 
and they are hidden hungry and silent, waiting for the 
skies to clear so that they can take wing and search for 
food. In flight they have a habit of steering with their 
tails, which furnished primitive man with his idea for put- 
ting a rudder on his boat. 

The glede and the great hawk were more like the 
eagles in choosing locations. They did not select moun- 
tain tops, but they did go to the mountains, building on 
Carmel, and all over the hills of Galilee. They preyed 
upon young game birds because of their size, moles, rats, 
mice, frogs, and were especial enemies to pigeons and 
doves, that were numerous everywhere. 

They built in the great trees, and on the crags of the 
mountains, big, coarse nests of sticks and twigs, and car- 
ried most of the food alive which they gave to their 
young. I have seen hawks eat carrion, but daintily and 



310 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

almost never in comparison with the amount of living 
prey they take. Once in a great while they secure some- 
thing we wish they had not, but as a rule all food car- 
ried to the nest of a hawk is something very good for the 
welfare of man to have removed. 

They followed traveling and camping Bedouins, were 
plentiful near Beersheba, and congregated in great num- 
bers in the wilderness west of the Dead Sea for their sea- 
son of rest. On wing in cloud spaces they duplicated 
the graceful flight of the eagle, and could not be told 
from it at long range, so similar were they in form and 
coloration. The kite "ayah," which is a hawk having 
wonderful keenness and penetration of sight, is mentioned 
in the abomination lists in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. 
It is also spoken of when Isaiah predicted the destruction 
of Edom. "There shall the kites be gathered, every one 
with her mate." 

With the Hebrews "netz" seemed to refer to small 
hawks that migrated, and it appeals to me that their 
kestrel corresponded most nearly with our falcon family. 
They are smaller, brighter of coloring, keep nearer the 
earth, and in all my experience eat mice, insects, and small 
birds, but never carrion. All along the rocky shores of 
the Jordan, all through the desolate crevices of the Dead 
Sea, over the ruins of deserted cities, whose whole popu- 
lation at times was wiped out in fierce tribal wars, in 
temples and mosques, over cultivated fields and fruitful 
gardens along the coast, flocked the kestrels. 

From the greatest to the smallest, we have a dozen 
different families; no doubt Bible lands knew as many, 
or even more, for that country was infinitely better suited 
to their habits and wants than ours. While great num- 




PAIR FALCONS 



STRATTON-PORTER 



"There is a path which no fowl knoweth 
And which the falcon's eye hath not seen." 



THE HAWK 313 

bers of the species frequented the wilderness, the edges 
of the desert, and the mountains, the insect eaters followed 
cultivated fields and gardens, growing more friendly with 
man and with each other. 

One kestrel, which the Arabs always distinguished 
from the others, was small and of brilliant color. It sum- 
mered with them, and wintered in Africa. Because it was 
absent half the year is no doubt the reason it was first 
especially noticed. It was friendly to its kind and to men, 
and, as it ate insects mostly, was welcomed into grain 
fields, gardens, all around villages, and the suburbs of 
cities. It was distinguished by its white claws, coloring, 
size, and habits. 

It nested in hollow trees, bringing off larger broods 
than the great hawks, and feeding almost entirely on 
grasshoppers, moths, and palmerworms. Occasionally it 
helped itself to a sparrow, and its larger relatives near 
the fruit orchards and olive yards took a dove or pigeon; 
but as men used so many of these for food and sacrifice, 
it seems no more than fair that the birds should have 
their share also. The Revised Version changes the vulture 
to the falcon in the description of a mine in the twenty- 
eighth chapter of Job. I do not agree with the change. 
The falcons have keen eyes, as do all hawks and eagles; 
but I always have thought of the vulture in connection 
with this passage, and believe it to be the bird intended. 

The description of the appearance and habit of these 
kestrels makes me sure they were similar to our beautiful 
and interesting little dusky falcon, that is of the same 
location, habit, and color description. In all time these 
birds have been very friendly with man, and if taken 
from a nest and trained a little, will become thoroughly 



314 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

domesticated, and make beautiful and very intelligent 
pets. These are the birds that were educated for the 
sport of hawking in early England. They rode to the 
field on the wrist or saddle-pommel of the owner, and were 
released at the sight of pigeon, dove, lark, or any bird 
they were capable of taking; the sport being to watch 
the capture and recovery of the wild bird. Sometimes 
two hawks were released to pursue the prey, and the owners 
made wagers as to whose bird would win. 

I know one falcon of this family taken from a nest 
and raised by hand, that became perfectly tame from the 
beginning, and now flies and retrieves to order and perches 
on the head of a hunting dog with no more concern than 
its relatives, flying all around and sitting on the dead limb 
of any tree. There are touches of white and black on its 
plumage, a bright rusty red on its crown and wings, and 
strong steel blue in shadings over it. The feet and beak 
are white, and its soft eyes have that wonderful look of 
intelligence of all hawks. 

Because we have trained the crow, and become so well 
acquainted with him, we usually credit him with having 
the most highly developed brain of any bird. But I think, 
from the appearance of large wisdom to be found in the 
face and eyes of a hawk, that if we had spent one-half 
the time studying and developing it that we have the 
crow, we should find that this bird would respond to teach- 
ing much quicker, and be far more intelligent than the 
crow. There is something in the face of a great hawk 
seen at close range of which, I confess, I stand in awe. 

To me these birds are typical of the wonder and 
majesty of the Almighty. Who knows what they see 
when they range beyond our vision? Who knows what 



THE HAWK 315 

they feel when they soar in cloud spaces? By whose 
wisdom do they fly, if not by the wisdom of the Almighty ? 
Then, who are w r e, and who gave us power to tamper 
with the scheme of creation? And when will we learn 
that we will pay dearly if we do? 

Did you ever stop to consider that it is invariably 
the weakling of a flock that a hawk secures? There is 
almost always an alarm from some source, and the strong- 
est make for cover and escape; so if the hawk captures 
any prey, it is the weak and helpless. Recently I was 
told by Gilbert Pearson, who knows as much as any other 
one man concerning the sea and coast birds, that hawks 
were preying upon the pheasant hatcheries of a certain 
producer of these birds. He furnished arms and ammuni- 
tion, and offered a reward for hawk scalps in his commu- 
nity. One season saw the last of the great birds come 
swirling to earth. The next, no hawks visited the location. 
By the third year the weakling pheasants that the hawks 
would have carried away had dragged out a sickly exist- 
ence, bred, and intermingled with the strong birds. The 
pest came, and by the thousand sick and well died to- 
gether, until the man saw his error. The last I heard 
of him he was praying for some good, strong hawks to 
come his way and restore the force of the balance of 
nature. 

There is an old proverb, "Let well enough alone," 
that is good to apply in this case. Because a hawk takes 
a few young chickens, ducks, turkeys, or doves, a farmer 
ruthlessly will shoot every hawklike bird in range, and 
thus in his ignorance he will destroy birds that catch 
fifty moles and mice from his fields to every chicken they 
take from the orchard. There is no way in which to 



316 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

estimate the number of grasshoppers, locusts, and insect 
plagues that a half dozen falcon families will carry from 
a grain field or meadow to a brood of young in a season ; 
but because they appear like hawks they, too, are killed. 
The hawk has the most comprehensive bird face I 
know. It is not so ferocious as the eagle, and is far more 
intelligent. With its deep-set eyes and overshadowing 
brow the eagle appears inexorable, a perfect picture of 
savagery. Larger eyes, more prominently set, give to 
the face of the hawk less ferocity and more intelligence. 
The longer I study hawk faces and history, the more 
firmly I become convinced that these birds fly by the 
wisdom of the Almighty, and we suffer the penalty if 
we interfere. 



QUAIL AND PARTRIDGE 

'They asked, and he brought quails, 

And satisfied them with the bread of heaven." 

DAVID. 

l As the decoy partridge in a cage, 
So is the heart of a proud man" 

ECCLESIASTICUS. 



CHAPTER XI 
QUAIL AND PARTRIDGE 

QUAILS were first mentioned by Moses in the Bible, in 
the history of the Exodus. After the Hebrews had crossed 
the Red Sea, and were on their way toward the wilderness 
of Sinai, they complained because of scarcity of food. 
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard 
the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto 
them saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morn- 
ing ye shall be filled with bread ; and ye shall know that 
I am the Lord your God. And it came to pass at even 
that the quails came up, and covered the camp ; and in 
the morning the dew lay round about the camp. And 
when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the 
face of the wilderness a small round thing, small as the 
hoar frost on the ground. And when the Children of 
Israel saw it, they said to one another, What is it? For 
they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, 
It is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat." 

David, in recording the flight of Israel in his poetic 
strain, touched upon this same incident; and he told it 
like the true poet he was. 

' He spread a cloud for a covering ; 
And fire to give them light in the night. 
They asked, and He brought quails, 
And satisfied them with the bread of Heaven. 
He opened the rock, and waters gushed out , 
They ran in the dry places like a river." 
11 321 



322 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Again, toward the end of the journey, the people tired 
of the manna, and complained because they were hungry 
for the fish, cucumbers, melons, onions, leeks, and garlic 
of Egypt. Once more Providence came to their rescue 
in this manner. 

"And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and 
brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the 
camp, about a day's journey on this side, and a day's 
journey on the other side, round about the camp, and 
about tw r o cubits above the face of the earth. And the 
people rose up all that day, and all the night, and all the 
next day, and gathered up the quails: he that gathered 
least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all 
abroad for themselves round about the camp." 

Commentators have spent much time trying to prove 
that this provision of the Lord was flying fish, because 
they carne from the sea; and again that they were some 
large insects, like locusts, or some birds ranging any- 
where from grouse to stork. Yet the text is so much 
easier, clearer, and more sensible as it stands. In the first 
place the Hebrew "selav" means "to be fat," which ac- 
curately describes the condition of the quail at the time 
of migration. This bird was considered the plumpest, 
most juicy morsel of its species for food in Bible lands. 
None of the alternatives mentioned were very good to 
eat, except the grouse, and that was not nearly so de- 
licious as the quail. Again, the time was early spring, 
about our April, and the quail were migratory birds. 
They not only came up from Africa, and spread like 
clouds over the lands of Bible history; but they crossed 
the sea. Pliny tells of them coming into Italy in great 
numbers, and so wearied with their long flight, that, 



QUAIL AXD PARTRIDGE 323 

sighting a ship, they would settle upon it so thickly as to 
sink it. 

There is no question but this is true. Quails were 
birds of the earth. They built on the ground, and aver- 
aged sixteen young to the nest. If even half of a brood 
escaped, they soon multiplied around the edges of the 
deserts in Africa in such numbers as easily to form clouds. 
They were plump, heavy birds, and never attempted high 
flight. In migration they always waited until the wind 
was blowing in the direction they wished to travel. Even 
with this help the} 7 became so exhausted in crossing water 
that they always stopped on any island to rest. 

Now compare these scientific facts with the text. Here 
was the camp of Israel, lying in the Sinai Peninsula. It 
was spring, and the birds were in migration. The quail 
in their heavy, low flight followed up the Red Sea until 
they came to the point of the peninsula. Here they se- 
lected the narrowest place, and when the wind was in the 
right direction they crossed with it. Not far from the 
coast they flew over the camp fires of the Israelites, which 
completely bewildered them, and they began to fall in 
confused thousands all over and around the camp. Then 
the Israelites arose and killed for each soul of the camp 
a certain number, and spread them out in the hot desert 
sun to dry; just as Herodotus tells us the Egyptians al- 
ways have done. In this instance no miracle was needed. 
The workings of natural, every-day laws supplied the 
food received in the easiest way imaginable. 

David in time reached this incident also, and from 
his never-failing fountain of poesy flowed this account 
of it: 

"Man did eat the bread of the Mighty : 
He sent them meat to the full. 



324 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

He caused the east wind to blow in the Heaven : 
And by His power guided the south wind. 
He rained flesh also upon them as dust, 
And winged fowl as the sand of the seas : 
And He let it fall in the midst of their camp, 
Round about their habitations . ' ' 

The latest version of the Bible in three different pas- 
sages that I find, always in comparison, mentions the 
partridge, which is a near relative of the quail. The par- 
tridges were a little larger than the quail, in one instance 
more brightly colored, but the plumage was not so cut 
with pencilings, and the backs of all were very much 
like the browns, tans, and grays of earth. They were 
not of such juicy, finely flavored flesh to eat as quail, 
although all of them were used for food. 

Their habits were so similar that a description of one 
member of any family would answer very well for the 
whole. They nested on the ground, laid from sixteen to 
twenty eggs, and left the nest with the young, that all 
emerged at once, as soon as the down was dry. Then they 
began life around the edges of the desert, in the wilder- 
ness, on the high hills, and sides of the mountains. Our 
quails and partridges are relatives of these birds of Bible 
lands, differing slightly in markings and in their eggs. 
Ours lay a white egg; theirs, a creamy egg with heavy, 
dark-brown mottlings. Also our birds, the quail espe- 
cially, are much tamer, and nest near the borders of grain 
fields, in orchards, and meadows. There are many in- 
stances in my experience with these birds when I was sure 
they chose a location close to a path, by a roadside, or 
especially near a power-house, when I felt they were avail- 
ing themselves of the protection they would receive from 



QUAIL AXD PARTRIDGE 327 

the presence of man near their nests, to shield them from 
snakes, hawks, and animals. These Oriental birds were 
the wildest things imaginable. They were splendid run- 
ners. The young, with down scarcely dry, would evade 
a man, and the old birds, with flashing legs and earth- 
colored backs, often escaped where they had a little shel- 
ter and ran on a level. 

David, in his dialogue with Saul, recorded in First 
Samuel, used an expression that proved, if he had not 
been partridge hunting himself, he IIP ' aen these birds 
taken. He knew how similar to the earth and dry 
leaves they were in color, how swiftly they could run, 
how elusively they could dodge, and how motionless they 
could squat beside something that afforded them pro- 
tective coloration, even when the human hand or foot w T as 
within a few inches of them. So he said to Saul, "The 
king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one 
doth hunt a partridge in the mountains." Yet on the 
mountains the partridges were at a disadvantage, and 
were easier to take with the sticks that were especially 
made to throw at birds, than in the fields. 

Pliny wrote, in a quite complete history of the par- 
tridge, how it would slip from its nest, pretending a 
broken wing, and toll a man from its location. This is 
true to the characteristics of the bird, if only he had quit 
with truth; but he added that after escaping it would lie 
on its back, and with its feet hold a clod above itself for 
cover. I am ready to affirm that no partridge ever did 
this. In some way he must have confused this bird with 
the species of hawks and owls that lie on their backs 
to fight, so that at the same time they can use feet, beak, 
and wing butts effectively, and protect the back as well. 



328 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

The largest number of these birds could be taken 
at migration times with what were called "throw sticks." 
After the birds were nesting or raising young, the greatest 
havoc could be wrought among them with nets or by 
using a bird of the species as a decoy, as is described in 
the first chapter of this book. It is this decoy method 
of taking birds which is used in comparison in Ecclesi- 
asticus : 

As a decoy partridge in a cage, 
So is the heart of a proud man." 

The other reference to partridges used to cause com- 
mentators much trouble, because the old version read, 
"As the partridge sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them 
not; so he that getteth riches and not by right, shall 
leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall 
be a fool." That was explained in several different ways, 
all of which neglected the obvious fact that the eggs 
of the partridge are splendid food; indeed, no other 
equals them. I am sorry that I know so well, but when 
I was a child no one ever heard of bird protection. We 
instinctively shielded songsters and little helpless crea- 
tures, but quail and partridges were very numerous, and 
we ate both the birds and eggs. When we found a nest, 
with a long stick we always raked out one egg, and if 
it had not been brooded yet, we ate those remaining. No 
other egg I ever tasted nearly equals them. But we did 
not discover this ourselves. The knowledge of the delicacy 
of quail eggs came across the sea with our ancestors, and 
they learned it from the south of Europe, and these lands 
had it from Africa, the home of the quail. So that pas- 
sage merely means that a partridge sits on a large nestful 



QUAIL AXD PARTRIDGE 329 

of eggs while she deposits them, but she is not always al- 
lowed to brood, and raise her young, because her eggs dis- 
appear. If they escape man, there are all the native egg- 
eaters of the wild. 

The new version of this text accepts as correct one of 
the explanations which was offered to make clear the first 
form of these lines, "that the partridge hatched the eggs 
of other birds, and so gathered young which she had not 
brought forth." So the lines are made to read, "As the 
partridge hath gathered young which she hath not 
brought forth, so is he that gathereth riches and not by 
right." 

I know that what we call domestic fowl will brood 
upon any egg that is placed under them: pea hen, 
duck, goose, turkey, and once I set a hen on chicken 
hawk eggs. Also wild birds brood for the cuckoo and the 
cowbird, but I have had experience with thousands of bird 
nests and brooding birds, and never yet have I found the 
egg of any other in the nest of a partridge. It is al- 
most an impossibility. These birds build on the ground, 
in a tuft of grass, and deposit one egg each day until 
they have finished. With each egg they cover the nest 
very securely, and leave it until they are ready to brood, 
and then they sit closely, the male taking the place of the 
female while she goes each day for food and drink. 

There is just one possibility that this new version is 
right. Where these birds are so numerous as they were 
in Bible lands, and the parents were leaving the nest fol- 
lowed by from sixteen to twenty young, it appears verv 
plausible that broods frequently might meet and inter- 
mingle, and the young become confused and follow the 
wrong mother. In this manner a partridge could 



330 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

"gather" several young she "had not brought forth;" for 
the little birds are identical, and the old ones also. Thus 
stragglers of a brood might possibly become tired, and 
attach themselves to the next family coming their way 
when they were very young. When a little older, the nest- 
lings distinguished the voice of the mother, for these birds 
had a melodious cry or whistle, as have our own. Not 
similar notes, but mellow, clear, sweet -toned calls. 



THE BITTERN 

'/ will make it a possession for the bittern, 
and pools of water" ISAIAH. 




BITTERN STRATTON-PORTER 

"A possession for the bittern." 



CHAPTER XII 
THE BITTERN 

"!T is impossible for those who have not heard its 
evening call to gain an adequate idea of its solemnity. 
It is like the interrupted bellowing of a bull, but hollower 
and louder, and is heard at a mile's distance, as if issu- 
ing from some formidable being that resided at the bottom 
of the waters. This is the bittern, whose windpipe is 
fitted to produce the sound for which it is remarkable; 
the lower part of it dividing into the lungs, being sup- 
plied with a thin, loose membrane, that can be filled with 
a large body of air and exploded at pleasure." Nutall. 

"Its strange, booming note, disturbing the stillness of 
the night, gives an idea of desolation which nothing but 
the wail of the hyena can equal." Tristram. 

The bittern boomed its way into Bible history as a 
horrible example. When prophets such as Isaiah and 
Zephaniah almost had exhausted their imagination, they 
finished with the bellow of a bittern. Some translators 
have thought from the text that an animal was intended, 
but there is no question with me but it was this very 
bird, since it was suggestive of a "formidable being that 
resided at the bottom of the waters" to one ornithol- 
ogist two thousand years after the prophet's time, and 
"the wail of a hyena" to another. That the translation 
of "bittern" be changed to "porcupine" or "hedgehog," 
as suggested by some commentators, is absurd, since these 

335 



336 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

animals live in dry places, and not in pools of water; 
they do not "lift up their voices," they do not perch on 
wood, and there is no reason why they should be men- 
tioned in connection with birds whose names undoubtedly 
are correctly translated. 

The old version of the Bible renders "kippod," a crea- 
ture inhabiting waste and desert places, as "bittern." 
Modern students seem to have confounded this with "kun- 
fod," the hedgehog or porcupine. Here I am stoutly for 
the old version, on natural history grounds. The porcu- 
pine in no degree answers the purpose of Isaiah or Zeph- 
aniah. It makes no particular sound, and would add no 
terror to any picture of desolation, which is the purpose 
for which both these writers used the bittern. So in this 
case I prefer to quote the old version. 

Seven hundred and twelve years 'before the time of 
Christ, Isaiah, in prophesying the fall of Babylon, said : 
"For I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of hosts, 
and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, 
and nephew, saith the Lord. I will also make it a pos- 
session for the bittern, and the pools of water: and I will 
sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of 
hosts." 

Later in his writings Isaiah assured Israel that the 
Lord yet would choose them for His people. He wrote, 
"And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall 
give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and 
from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve." 
He told Babylon that its music should cease, its pomp 
be brought to the grave, that worms should devour it, 
and that it should be as a carcass trodden under foot. 

Then he prophesied how God would avenge His 



THE BITTERX 337 

Church. "It is the day of the Lord's vengeance, and the 
year of recompense for the controversy of Zion. And 
the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the 
dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof into 
burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night or day, 
the smoke thereof shall go up forever, from generation 
to generation it shall lie waste, and none shall pass through 
it forever and forever." It really seems as if this would 
be sufficient punishment for almost anything, but Isaiah 
evidently felt that it could be drawn stronger, for, con- 
tinuing the same, he added, "But the cormorant and the 
bittern shall possess it ; the owls also, and the ravens shall 
dwell in it : and he shall stretch out upon it the lines of 
emptiness, and the stones of confusion." 

The only excuse for putting the bittern into this 
company, or using it for this purpose, lies in its voice; 
since it is a clean, well-mannered, beautiful bird, hand- 
somely plumaged, and it was once considered a great 
delicacy for food. Whether taste has changed, or the 
bird, I do not know, but it is not eaten by us. It was 
frequent all over Africa, and in India, and is old as his- 
tory. All the way down time since the prophets used it 
to frighten people, the remarkable thing concerning it 
has been its vocal attainments, which are peculiar and 
like those of no other feathered creature. And aside from 
its voice it is such a nice bird, too! 

Our bitterns are so similar to those that abounded 
in the marshes of Syria and in the swamps of the Tigris 
that the difference is not worth discussion. The birds are 
practically the same in voice and habit ; ours is not quite 
so light in color, theirs being more of a buff. 

They were members of the heron family, and homed 



338 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

in the swamps and marshes of the Tigris and throughout 
the Holy Land. They were twenty-seven inches long, had 
a wing-spread of forty, and a four-inch bill. Their habits 
were partly nocturnal, but not so completely as supposed by 
early writers, for Audubon said of our bitterns, "In more 
than half a dozen instances I have surprised them in the 
act of procuring food in the middle of the day, when the 
sun was shining brightly." I have done more than that, 
for I have taken their pictures in the same circumstances. 

They were very beautiful, their plumage made up 
of many shades of tans and browns, that were always 
pleasing and harmonious, and they had a touch of black 
as a distinctive marking. The darkest colors were on 
the wings, back, and tail; the lightest on the breast. 
The groundwork of this color was a deep, warm cream; 
the feathers being so penciled in darker brownish color 
as to resemble stripes. The light stripe was of the 
cream color, nearly a fourth of an inch in width; the 
dark stripe of the same, but definitely penciled in 
browns. The black markings began in a line at the cor- 
ners of the mouth, extended under the eyes, and met at 
the back of the neck. Owing to their nocturnal habits, 
the eyes were noticeably large for the size of the bird. 
Their beaks and feet had lively color. The upper beak 
was dark-brown, shading to ivory at the tip, the under 
much shaded with yellow, green, and red. The feet were 
pale-green, elegantly shaped, with long, slender toes. 

Their internal composition had two peculiarities. The 
intestines were so small as to be marvelous ; and the un- 
usual membrane in the lungs which was responsible for 
their appearance in the Bible, and much amusing litera- 
ture. Their diet was frogs and marsh worms, that must 



THE BITTERX 339 

have been very well ground and assimilated in the 
crop, or they never could have passed through the tiny 
intestines. 

They nested beside the water in the rushes and grasses, 
and their eggs were pale-brown. They were not a friendly 
bird, and took wing on sight unless protecting a nest 
and young. They did not fly well near the earth, but 
gained some height by circling before they made a long 
flight. They were beautiful waders, disdaining to hurry, 
but slowly and deliberately lifted each foot and carefully 
placed it. They evinced a pride in their handsome plum- 
age by much dressing of it, and the care they used when 
entering filthy water. 

The bittern was one of the first birds recorded in his- 
tory, and its vocal attainments received prompt attention. 
Pliny wrote of a bird that bellowed like oxen, and for this 
reason was called "Taurus." Other mediaeval writers re- 
ferred to it as Botaurus, which name still clings to it in 
ornithology. Aristotle said that the bittern was originally 
called "ocnus," and that this name "indicates a very idle 
disposition." He added that "it is said in fables to have 
been a slave originally." Perhaps it was overworked in 
bondage, and is now taking a few centuries of needed rest, 
so it is deliberate and stately in its movements. 

Wherever it located in the history of the world, it 
boomed or bellowed, and a new name sprang up to give 
it local designation. The tribal call of our bitterns, so 
nearly as I can express it in a word, is "Couk," or "Kouk," 
and so closely resembles the stroke of an ax on the head 
of a deeply driven stake that in the New England States 
they call it the "Stake Driver." 

In my locality it is the "Thunder Pumper." Hear- 



340 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

ing the bittern's cry among the tall grasses, and see- 
ing it thrusting its long bill into the muck for worms, 
people concluded that it produced this call by pushing 
its bill into the mud and sucking water. An "oldest in- 
habitant" once explained to me that this bird was sup- 
plied with an extra straight intestine running straight 
through its anatomy. That it thrust its bill into any small 
puddle, pumped off the water, and then picked out the 
worms. The cry made the "thunder," and the sucking 
of the water was the "pumping," hence the name. So 
keen an observer as Thoreau half believed this, for he never 
recorded sighting a bittern, but he also told of creeping 
up to see if he could catch it in the act of sucking w r ater 
to produce its cry. 

He could have shot a bird easily, dissected it, and 
found out, but he was the man who exclaimed passionately, 
"I do not wish to know the length of the intestines of 
any bird !" Neither do I ; and it is a certainty that I 
never will if I have to kill the bird to learn. Enough 
of that work to form all the records needed had been 
done before the birth of any one now living. 

So the bittern owes its appearance in the Bible wholly 
to its voice. I can give no better description of it than 
that quoted in the beginning. It is not like any other 
bird note. It gives ground for a contention that sound 
is the most effective of the senses. After these prophets 
of old had piled agony to the extent of brimstone dust, 
and rivers of pitch; after they had drawn with all their 
powers a picture for the imagination, as a finishing 
touch they added sound. When their scene of desolation 
was complete as they could paint it, they selected this 
bird, and they hesitated in saying whether it was bird 



THE BITTER X 341 

or beast, and set it filling the night with its mournful 
echoes. Devastation to the sight was made complete by 
adding sounds of horror. 

Isaiah was not alone in his conception of a scene of 
desolation. Over a hundred years later Zephaniah very 
closely paralleled him: "And He will stretch out His 
hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will 
make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. 
And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, and all of 
the beasts of the nations; both the cormorant and the 
bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice 
shall sing in the windows, desolation shall be in the thresh- 
olds, for He shall uncover the cedar works." 

Here is even a more vivid picture, because it seems 
nearer within the bounds of our comprehension. Land 
and rivers of pitch and brimstone dust are difficult to 
imagine, because they are beyond our experience. But 
we know how a cyclone can sweep by, and tear off roofs, 
and uncover the interior of homes. We know that land 
can become so dry that animals and wild beasts will lie 
down to die. But we do not know just what it would 
mean to see this thing, and to hear the voice of the bittern 
in its mournful bellow among the ruins in the night time. 
It was evidently the intention of the prophets to paint 
so dire a picture that no one would care to see it. 

This quotation is used by some in an effort to prove 
that the bittern could not have been intended because it is 
a water bird, and Nineveh was to be made dry. But they 
forget that the marshes of the Tigris lay very near, and 
that in the stillness of night the voice of the bittern would 
resound through the ruins in its most horrible form, and 
easily could have been heard a half mile beyond. More- 
over, the creature here specified was to "sing," and it was 



342 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

to "lodge" on the "upper lintels," which were the top 
timbers of the doors and windows. 

There seems to be a great gulf between humanity and 
the birds concerning melody. Here were Isaiah and Zeph- 
aniah using the voice of the bittern to complete a scene 
specially depicted to inspire horror. Such pictures were 
intended literally to frighten people. The bittern has 
not so very much to say in this world, except when court- 
ing a mate and raising a brood. This makes it all too 
evident that the notes on which the prophets were relying 
to give the last twist of horror to their pictures of deso- 
lation were the love songs of the bird. 

When a bittern left its marshy haunts and began to 
"sing in the windows" of a ruin at night, you may be 
very sure that it was lonely, and calling with all the 
power of its far-reaching voice for a mate. It is unfor- 
tunate for it that the notes uttered happen to be those 
which we associate with desolation and heartbreak. 

I am quite sure that the bird would alter its voice 
if it could, and not try our nerves with "explosions." 
But since the bittern never can know, and can not change 
that peculiar little membrane at the end of its windpipe 
which enables it to boom, let me suggest that humanity, 
clearly understanding the case, change its points of view 
and cease to shudder at the love-song of a harmless and 
beautiful bird. 

To Sir Walter Scott these notes seemed drumlike, for 
it was he who coupled the bittern with the lark when he 
wrote : 

Yet the lark's shrill fife may come 

At day-break from the fallow, 
And the bittern sound his drum, 
Booming from the sedgy shallow." 



THE SWALLOW 

'As the swallow in her flying, 
So the curse that is causeless light eth not." 

SOLOMON. 





SWALLOW 



STRATTON-PORTER 



Yea, the swallow hath found a nest for herself." 



CHAPTER XIII 
THE SWALLOW 

THE Hebrew word "dedor" means the bird of free- 
dom; and because no other feathered creature with which 
Bible lands were acquainted had the swift, untiring flight, 
covered the wide range of territory, found its food on 
wing, and speedily died in captivity, as did the swallow, 
every one agrees that it was intended. In every land in 
all times this bird has been noted for the grace of its 
ceaseless flight, which attains such speed that a certain 
branch of the family find a name thereby, and are called 
"swifts." 

Pliny said: "Of all birds the swallow alone flieth bias, 
and windeth in and out in his flight: he is most swift of 
wing and flieth with ease: and therefore not so ready to 
be surprised and taken by other birds. He never feedeth 
but flying, and so doth no other bird besides." 

To the great average of folk in our day, swallow 
means two birds; the trim little chimney swift, and the 
graceful and beautiful barn swallow. These are the two 
that we see perching and on wing around our homes. All 
other members of the family that nest among cliffs and 
under bridges we see only on wing, where they all appear 
so much alike as to be indistinguishable. 

I have not a doubt but this was the case in Bible lands. 
The swift and the swallow may have been distinguished 
because they were a little different in anatomy and voice; 

347 



348 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

but the remainder of the species, and very likely other 
small grayish and brownish birds that took food on wing, 
such as fly-catchers, were called swallows also. Ordinary 
observers separate these birds with difficulty, especially on 
wing; scientists make distinct species of them because of 
differing anatomical structure. 

Swallows were very numerous in Palestine, and while 
a few went farther south for winter, many remained 
throughout the season. The swift was migratory, so it 
was to them, and not to the swallow, that Jeremiah re- 
ferred when he said, "The swallow and the crane observe 
the time of their coming." 

The Arab term "sus" means a rushing sound, and 
it is thought to apply to the wonderful flight of the 
swift, which is estimated to attain over eighty miles an 
hour. Swallows are not so speedy, but are supposed to 
make a migration of eight hundred miles in a night. 

The swift was the first bird sign of spring in Palestine, 
and it is among the first with us. It is not easy to separate 
the species from what is said of them in the Bible, but 
possibly the greatest difference lay in the fact that there 
were no chimneys in those lands, so the swifts built in 
crevices, in walls of stone, and in wild, unprotected places. 
The swallows were the friendliest of birds. They plas- 
tered their mud houses under the eaves against the rafters 
of cedar and fir ; inside buildings to which they could gain 
access through windows ; in outbuildings, and they almost 
took possession of the great temple at Jerusalem, and all 
other open places of worship, mosques, and public build- 
ings. 

With us the birds of which we think when we read of 
a swallow or a swift have made a slight change in char- 



THE SWALLOW 351 

acteristics and habits from these ancestors of theirs. The 
swallows can not find suitable nest locations under the 
eaves of modern houses, so they have gone to the barns, 
seeking the rafters and eaves, to which they still cling. 
So tenaciously they nest in these outbuildings that the 
name "barn swallow" is used to designate a species. Our 
swifts still chatter, but they are not so wild as the an- 
cestors of the family. Lacking the rocky crevices of the 
Holy Land in which to build, in this new country of ours 
they find a substitute in the chimneys of brick and stone. 
As soon as the fires are out in the spring, they take 
possession, build their nests, raise their young, and chat- 
ter above us all day. 

In our colder and variable climate we can not leave 
houses of worship and public buildings open, as did the 
Orientals. But every latticed belfry or any public tower 
where they can find a small entrance soon becomes the home 
of a flock of swifts. All deserted cabins and abandoned 
country houses have large families of them in the chimneys. 

In singing of the house of God, David felt that his 
work would not be complete without putting in these birds, 
and other friendly little creatures that homed there: 

Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house, 
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she 

may lay her young, 
Even thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and 

my God." 

Because so many of the swallows nested in the tem- 
ples, the whole species were held almost sacred, for any 
bird w r hich built in a place of worship was supposed to 
be claiming the protection of the Almighty. No one 



352 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

would have dared interfere with a nest so placed. So in- 
flexible was the rule to protect birds building in temples 
that the laws governing them there held good elsewhere, 
to the extent that they were welcomed near homes and 
regarded as a blessing. 

So all over those fortlike structures with clay and 
stone walls, and roofs supported with heavy timbers, that 
were the homes of the Holy Land, the swallows flocked. 
They sailed over the heads of the children at play, and 
above the men and women at work in their gardens among 
the herbs and vegetables. These birds of long ago darted 
back and forth familiarly as they do now, even more so, 
because they were protected, where some people of to-day 
might consider them a nuisance. 

They were a part of the home life of villages and 
walled towns. They built their nests of clay, interlaid 
with hair and straw, lined with feathers, and laid their 
little white eggs. They brooded inside buildings where 
people ate, slept, and worked at looms weaving linen cloth 
and making garments. They peered over the edges of 
nests under the roofs, and watched the laborers in the 
gardens, growing their mandrakes, cucumbers, onions, and 
lentils. 

When their young hatched came busy times. Then 
those good folk saw how wise they were to protect the 
swallows, for in those tropical countries, flies, mosquitoes, 
and other tiny insects of air were great pests. The peo- 
ple must have seen that myriads of these were being 
sifted from the air by these birds and fed to their nest- 
lings. No doubt this made the swallows doubly welcome. 

I like to think that in those days the brightly clad 
men and women, who were so near to nature and to God, 



THE SWALLOW 355 

took the time to observe and to love the birds as they 
studied the stars and phenomena of nature. I can not 
imagine the people who lived in Shechem, Gilgal, Hebron, 
Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem rushing through life 
as we live it to-day. I like to picture them gleaning their 
fields, working their gardens, and watching their flocks, 
living a full life, but not a hurried one. I dream of those 
linen-clad women in gay colors of blue, yellow, and pur- 
ple attending the welfare of their families, even as 
Abigail ; but with time to teach their children the com- 
mandments and laws; time to linger in the spicy, odor- 
ous air; time to stand before their caged doves and 
coo back at them as they treated them to handfuls of 
wheat. These were the men and women who inside the 
walls of Jerusalem turned at morning and evening toward 
the temple and those outside faced the Holy City, and 9 
dropping upon their knees, lifted their voices on the fra- 
grant air and praised the Almighty. The swallows darting 
back and forth to their young must have been a part of 
the picture that these Christians in the fields, gardens, 
and on the housetops saw as they prayed. 

In this home life it is very probable that the sweet, low 
note of the parent swallows, uttered so lovingly to their 
young, was an accustomed and welcome sound. For the 
swallows do not talk enough to become tiresome, and what 
they say has sufficient melody to be attractive. 

The swifts were not so intimate in the pictures of 
home life. They scattered more widely during the day, 
and at night or feeding-time rushed across fields and 
gardens, through streets and by-ways, and their voices 
were wilder, harsher, and not at all attractive. They cried 
almost constantly, too, as if in mourning; and I believe 



356 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

it was them, and not the swallows, Hezekiah had in mind 
when he sang his Trouble Song, in which are the lines: 

Like a swallow or crane so did I chatter, 
I did mourn as a dove." 

Because they liked to build in temples and places of 
worship, the swallow gained the protection of all people. 
Much as they were loved and appreciated in Bible lands, 
they were shown even greater honor by the superstitious 
people of Greece and Rome. At Athens, when the com- 
ing of the swallows announced spring, the youths who 
sang in temples marched in procession through the streets, 
chanting a welcome to the returning birds. 

Pliny had wonderful things to relate of them. First, 
as to their migration, he wrote: "The swallows are gone 
from us all the winter time. Howbeit they depart not far 
off, but seek only the sunshine nooks near at hand, and 
follow the warmth. Where many times they are found 
naked without feathers altogether, as if they had moulted. 
It is said that they will never build their nest in any house 
in Thebes : because that city hath been many times forced 
and taken by the enemy." 

He relates that Cecina of Volaterrae, who was master 
of the coach horses at Rome and used to run races, was 
accustomed to take a swallow from the nest of the house 
of each of his best friends and carry the birds to Rome. 
There he would paint them with his colors, and release them 
when he was winning at the races, so that they would fly 
home and announce his successes long before the swiftest 
postmen or carriers. 

A story too quaint to omit must be given in his words: 
"Also Fabius Pictor reporteth in his annals, that when a 



THE SWALLOW 357 

fort which the Roman garrison held was besieged by the 
Ligustines, there were a she swallow newly taken out of 
the nest within the fort, from her little ones as she sat 
over them, and brought to him with this watchword, that 
by a linen thread tied to her foot instead of a letter, he 
should advertise them within the fort, by so many knots 
tied within the said thread, as there would days pass be- 
fore aid could come from him unto them, to the end that 
they also might be read} 7 upon that day to sally forth." 
This bird of free wing and unbroken spirit has circled 
the globe in its endless sailing. It is sweet of voice, 
beautiful of form and motion, everywhere a blessing. No 
wonder that in all time it has been thought to be under 
the protection of the Almighty. 



THE PEACOCK 

"Once in three years came the navy of Thar- 

shish, bringing gold, and silver, and ivory, and 

apes, and peacocks. 9 ' 1 KINGS. 



CHAPTER XIV 
THE PEACOCK 

THE native home of the two known peafowl is Japan 
for the plainer species; and Siam, Ceylon, and India 
for the commonest and most beautiful. In these tropical 
jungles nature seems to riot and revel in bright shades, 
and not upon flower faces does she lavish more brilliant 
colors than upon her birds. Of the many gayly feathered 
creatures none exceed the peacock in length of showy 
plumage or surpass its gaudy color. So wonderful are 
the shades changing from blue to green, lavender, purple, 
bronze, gold, and rich tans and grays to almost black, 
that a cry of admiration greets every appearance of the 
bird, whether among naked savages or civilized travelers. 

The most ardent admirer of the peacock, however, is 
the bird himself. He simply becomes intoxicated with his 
splendid color, and spreads his great train of bright 
plumes, waves, lifts, and turns it to the glancing colors 
of the sun. When the tail is picked for market, the bird 
is so overcome with shame that he hides for days and will 
not appear in his accustomed places until driven by hunger. 
At times he mourns his loss until he really dies from star- 
vation. 

Peafowl are of the tree tops and the earth. They 
build, lay their eggs, and brood on the ground: but when 
nesting cares are over, the highest branch of the forest 
is theirs. Among the tallest trees of Ceylon and Siam, 



364 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

covered by gay lichens and brightly blooming vines and 
air plants, these birds breed and increase until they form 
flocks of thousands. When they spread their gay feathers 
and make display of their graces the very flowers of the 
jungle are outshone. Fifty years ago travelers in these 
regions reported peafowl too numerous to estimate, and 
the most gorgeous sight earth had to produce. It is small 
wonder that they have been carried as great treasures to 
every end of the earth in which they possibly can live. 

The bill with its arched tip is of moderate size, the 
cheeks are almost bare, the eyes not large but very bright, 
the crest of twenty-four feathers with naked shafts is 
nearly two inches long, and has a broad tip of blue glanc- 
ing to green. The neck is not long, but proudly arched, 
the breast full and of bright blue-green, blue predominant. 
The wings are short and ineffectual, surprising when 
spread, and the quills separated into classes. There are 
almost black feathers, dark gray and light gray, beauti- 
ful reddish-tan quills, secondaries and tertiaries of dark- 
gray banded with tan, and a wonderful complication of 
these shades. 

The tail consists of eighteen short, stiff gray-brown 
feathers. Then comes the lining of the gaudy train, that 
is the glory of the bird. The train feathers are placed 
in layers, the smallest having tiny eyes and being only 
six inches in length; the largest has an eye an inch and 
a half to two inches across. These quills have thick shafts 
of changing purple and green shades, and the eyes are 
a deep peculiar blue, surrounded at the lower part by 
two half-moon shaped crescents of green. Whether the 
tail is folded or lifted, from smallest to largest each eye 
shows encircled with a marvel of green, gold, purple, and 
bronze. 



THE PEACOCK 365 

The rows of quills of this train occupy so much space 
that the smallest feathers reach so far up on the back that 
they fall between the wings; and when the tail is spread 
it appears to open as a fan just behind the head with its 
sparkling crest. Added to the glory of the tail is the 
fact that the bird by muscular contraction at the base of 
the quills can rattle them together and play a sort of pe- 
culiar music. 

The peafowl greets the dawn with cries impossible to 
translate into English, though it is thought that its Gre- 
cian name, and also the Latin name, Pavo, is in imitation 
of its morning call. It is as great a weather prophet as 
a cuckoo, and cries from high places before rain. Its 
voice takes on a more gentle tone when paired birds com- 
municate with each other or care for their young. When 
domesticated, it will become friendly enough to eat from 
the hand, but never will voluntarily enter confinement, pre- 
ferring to perch in tree tops and upon high buildings on 
the coldest nights. 

The peahen is smaller than the cock ; her neck is 
green, and her wings exquisite shades of gray, tan, and 
brown. But she has no train until old age, and then in 
some instances it is recorded that she has been observed 
to grow one. I know of no case of this kind in my ex- 
perience, and I doubt it. She nests upon the ground, 
and while prolific in her native home, she is an indifferent 
breeder when imported, and her young are very delicate. 
The nights are too cold, and the days too hot; so between 
these changes and with the cold rains of spring and sum- 
mer hailstorms few survive. 

The Japanese peafowl is similar in shape to all ap- 
pearances and only a little less gaudy in plumage. There 



366 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

have been bred, through some freak of nature, pure white 
peafowl, and those with the blue breast and white train. 
These birds are much used in parks and cemeteries, but, 
while novel, they have in no degree the beauty of the 
natural bird. They are very hardy; once acclimated, old 
birds live long, and make wonderfully decorative effects 
around country places. They are so frequent now that 
many farmers have them on their premises. They eat the 
common food given chickens, and are fond of tender green 
buds picked from trees and bushes. 

They, too, are among the birds of oldest history. They 
were twice mentioned in the Bird Play of Aristophanes, 
whose soul, Plato said, "was a temple for the graces." 
In his play of the birds his only use of the peacock was 
to inquire of a bird with any vanity if it was a peacock. 
It was among the birds included in the toast to the health 
and safety of the "Cloud-cuckoo-town," residents along 
with the horned owl, pelican, goldfinch, pigeon, spoonbill, 
bullfinch, heathcock, teal, bittern, heron, stormy petrel, 
blackcap, and titmouse; surely a motley array of music 
and discord, day and night, land and sea feathered folk. 
The chief benefit we derive from his use of it is to estab- 
lish it as a bird generally known in his time. In this 
same play he mentioned or made principal characters of 
the jackdaw, lapwing, partridge, attigan, duck, kingfisher, 
owl, jay, turtle-dove, crested lark, horned owl, buzzard, 
pigeon, heron, falcon, cuckoo, red-foot, red-cap, purple- 
cap, kestrel, diver, ousel, osprey, wood-pecker, kite, spar- 
row, rook, thrush, eagle, nightingale, swan, ostrich, peli- 
can, vulture, night hawk, goose, and swallow. The use 
he made of these proves them to be identical with, or very 
similar to our species of the same name. As he was con- 



THE PEACOCK 367 

temporaneous with Zechariah and Malachi, 444 B. C., 
his writings seem to bring all records of that time closer 
home and stamp them w r ith verity. 

The methods of taking birds that Aristophanes men- 
tioned were snares, traps, limed twigs, springs, meshes, 
nets, and trap-cages; the same as those of which Bible 
writers tell us. 

Alexander, who lived 104 to 78 B. C., claimed to have 
brought peacocks into Greece from invasions of the East, 
but Aristophanes already had indicated that they were 
common enough to bear introduction into a public play, 
and their presence and attributes were commonly under- 
stood. So the claim of Alexander is invalidated by this 
Bird Play, and by the works of other writers as well. 

Alexander himself was one of the emperors who, fol- 
lowing the custom of his predecessors, indulged in those 
banquets of which we read, where first rare birds were im- 
ported and served as roasts, then, to outdo predecessors, 
only the brains or tongues were used for royalty. The 
peacock at proper age and in good condition is fine food; 
and so are its eggs. They were roasted for the feasts of 
ancient Greeks and Romans, and it w r as often the custom 
to skin and cook the bird, re-cover it, and serve, showing 
the gaudy feathers. 

Pliny recorded that "the first that killed peacocks to 
be served up as a dish at the table was Hortensius, the 
great orator, in that solemn feast which he made when 
he was consecrated high priest." He stated in his great 
work on natural history that it was Aufidius Lurco who 
first fattened peacocks for food and sold them in the 
market places for so much that his yearly income from 
this invention was sixty thousand sesterces. This was at 



368 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

the time of the last Pirates' war. He also gave instruc- 
tions for breeding, and the care of eggs and young, which 
proved the peafowl to have been more common and more 
in use for food than domestic fowl, the consumption of 
which at that time was regulated by law. 

The first appearance of the peafowl in the Bible oc- 
curs as the finale of the summing up of the wealth and 
magnificence of the court of Solomon, in the tenth chap- 
ter of First Kings : 

"For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with 
the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of 
Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory and apes and 
peacocks." 

This same statement is repeated in almost precisely 
these words in Chronicles. It is questioned by some Bible 
commentators who believe the parrot to be the bird in- 
tended. At this time peafowls were old enough and suffi- 
ciently scattered to have reached the court of Solomon, 
who had all the novel and elegant accessories the discov- 
ered world produced. His ships reached coasts where 
peafowl were on the market, and no one can make me 
believe his agents neglected to carry them to the court 
of the greatest king of earth. 

Apes and parrots were companions of the peacocks in 
the tree tops of Ceylon and along the coast of Malabar, 
and I have not the slightest doubt that the ships of Solo- 
mon brought all of them to his court. 

I am quite sure so great an artist as Rubens never 
would have painted the beautiful picture of "The Vir- 
gin with the Parrot," found in the Rubens room of the 
Royal Art Museum of Antwerp, without first satisfy- 
ing himself that there was a possibility that the Virgin 




PEAHEN NEST 



STRATTON-PORTER 



Peahens lay their eggs upon the earth. 



THE PEACOCK 371 

at least had seen a parrot, no matter how much the sub- 
ject was idealized. The technique of the painting is fine 
enough, and the composition and coloring; but personally, 
I do not at all care for studies of the Virgin in rich robes, 
posing upon elaborate couches, surrounded by fortunes in 
rich tapestries and imported birds of great price. It 
grates upon my sense of the fitness of things. A Virgin 
with calm, pure eyes, homespun robes, and sandaled feet, 
following a rough path leading to the village of Naza- 
reth, and pointing out to a little Man-child the wonders 
of the skies above them and the miracles of nature all 
around them, would be far more to my taste. 

I doubt very seriously if Nazareth boasted any im- 
ported birds even in the days of Mary, a thousand years 
after the time of Solomon. But in her journeys to feasts 
at Jerusalem and across country she no doubt had seen 
the bird, and so it could be introduced into a picture of 
her time with propriety. I can see no way to settle the 
question as to whether Solomon imported peafowl or par- 
rots, so I choose to believe it was both. 

In the old version of that interview with the Almighty 
in which Job learned much natural history, the Creator 
Himself mentioned the peafowl. In impressing Job with 
the most wonderful of creations, the Almighty asked of 
him: 

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?" 

All commentators seem to agree that this is a mistake, 
and the translation should read "ostriches." Of course, 
the peafowl came much nearer having goodly wings than 
the ostrich; but its wings were nothing of which to boast. 
Job did not give wings of any sort to any bird, and 
neither did the Creator Himself give "goodly" wings 



372 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

unto either peafowl or ostrich. He gave to the peafowl 
a very short, insufficient wing for the weight of its body 
and the length and burden of its" train, so that it only 
can take short upward flights by easy stages. All flight 
is so much of an effort and makes the gay colors so con- 
spicuous that when pursued the bird more frequently trusts 
to its legs. It points the head low, weaves among grasses 
the color of its back, and hides as soon as possible. This 
is its best protection, and the bird knows it ; but it often 
loses its life by being clubbed when believing itself hidden. 
However, it no doubt saves life by hiding much more 
frequently than it possibly could by taking wing in the 
open. 

This is one of the marvels of nature to which the 
Creator called the attention of Job in this chapter. No 
one gave "goodly wings" as we would consider them to 
the peafowl, and so it is given instead a back so like the 
rich blue-greens of tropical w r aters under strong blue skies, 
surrounded by gold-green and blue-green grasses, bronze 
shades of dried leaves, and the gray of old logs and limbs, 
that it hides perfectly and does not need the wings of an 
eagle. If the peafowl undertook to soar in the sky, its 
train would make such a target that the most inexpert 
marksman could not fail to bring it down. 

It does not seem to me at all impossible that the 
peacock really is intended in this summing up of wonders 
which also includes the curled feathers of the ostrich \vith 
the gait of a horse, the wonderful flight of the eagle, the 
time when wild animals bear their young, or the impossi- 
bility of domesticating the unicorn. 

There is no question but the translation in Kings and 
Chronicles is correct, for peafowls were abundant in lands 



THE PEACOCK 373 

visited by the ships of Solomon, and when one takes into 
consideration the state of his court in Jerusalem at the 
time of the visit of the Queen of Sheba, it is not difficult 
to believe that he had every luxury the known world pro- 
vided. 

It is related that the queen came to Jerusalem on a 
visit, and she undoubtedly thought well of the pomp and 
circumstance in which she traveled. She had heard that 
the court of Solomon at Jerusalem was marvelous for 
the luxury and wealth of its king, and he famous for 
his wisdom and learning. So she entered Jerusalem with 
all the display she could command, "a very great train," 
and laid at the feet of Solomon gifts of spices in such 
abundance and richness as never before had been seen at 
one time. On that point she outdid Solomon, and no- 
where else in the world were spices so used as in Bible 
lands. The Qookery was rich with them, clothing packed 
in them, bath water perfumed with them, and before the 
dead were placed in sepulchers every layer of masses of 
wrappings was filled with quantities of rare spices, so 
they were in great demand and very precious. 

The twelfth book of Pliny's natural history is devoted 
to spice trees and those that yield incense. Arabia was 
the only country producing the precious frankincense, and 
so he called it "Happy Arabia." Yet he added: "Un- 
worthy country as it is for that surname, in that it taketh 
itself beholden to the gods above, therefore, whereas in- 
deed they have greater cause to thank the infernal spirits 
beneath. For what hath made Arabia blessed, rich and 
happy, but the superfluous expense that men be at in 
funerals: employing those sw r eet odors to burn the bodies 
of the dead which they knew by good right were due 



374 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

unto the gods." He recorded that only certain families 
and their descendants were allowed to gather frankincense, 
and these men were compelled to follow strict observances 
on the day on which they approached the precious trees. 
They must not have looked upon the dead, and must have 
been freshly purified in body. 

He described the gathering of frankincense as follows : 
"The first, and indeed the kindly season falls about the 
hottest days of summer, at what time as the dog days 
begin: for then they cut the tree where they see the bark 
to be fullest of liquor, and whereas they perceive it to 
be thinnest, and strut out most. They make a gash or 
slit only to give more liberty ; but nothing do they pare, 
or cut clean away. The wound or incision is no sooner 
made, but out there gushes a fat foam or froth: this soon 
congeals, and grows to be hard: and where the place will 
give them leave, they receive it in a quilt or mat made 
of date tree twigs, plaited and wound one within another, 
wicker-wise. For elsewhere the floor all about is paved 
smooth, and rammed down hard. The former is the better 
way to gather the purer and cleaner frankincense: but 
that which falleth upon the bare ground proves the 
weightier. That which remains behind, and sticks to the 
tree is patted and scraped off with knives, or such like 
iron tools ; and therefore no marvel if it be full of shav- 
ings of the bark. The whole wood or forest is divided 
into certain portions; and every man knows his own part: 
nay, there is not one of them will offer wrong unto an- 
other, and encroach upon his labors. They need not set 
any keepers to look unto those trees that be cut, for no 
man will rob his fellow if he might, so just and true they 
be in Arabia. But believe me, at Alexandria, where frank- 



THE PEACOCK 377 

incense is tried, refined, and made for sale, men can not 
look surely enough to their shops and workhouses, but 
they will be robbed. The workman that is employed about 
it is all naked, save that he hath a pair of trousers or 
breeches to cover his shame, and those are sewed up and 
sealed too, for fear of thrusting into them. Hoodwinked 
he is sure enough for seeing the way to and fro, and hath 
a thick coife or mask about his head, for doubt that he 
should ' bestow any in mouth or ears. And when these 
workmen be set forth again, they be stripped stark naked 
as ere they were born, and sent away. Whereby we may 
see that the rigour of justice can not strike so great fear 
into our thieves here, and make us so secure to keep our 
own, as among the Sabaeans, the bare reverence of religion 
of those woods." 

To me the most interesting fact here stated is con- 
tained in this last sentence, which contrasts the honor of 
true believers with pagans. The queen had one small tri- 
umph when she presented Solomon with costly spices to ex- 
ceed all his great store. She also brought magnificent gifts 
of gold and of jewels. But she very soon learned that 
all the marvelous reports she had heard, probably for the 
first time in her experience, fell so far short of what she 
saw that, as she expressed it, "The half was not told me !" 
You will admit that this is a rare case, and speaks well 
for the honesty of the times. In these days, when we go 
to view any spectacle, we are surprised if we see one-half 
that we have been told we will. 

First Solomon answered all those difficult questions 
which the queen wanted some one else to reason out for her. 
Queens grow accustomed to being waited upon, and really 
it is the most tiresome work in the world to think. It is 



378 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

much easier for a queen to summon a train, make a State 
journey, and ask questions and accept the answers, than 
it is to stir up the gray matter at the base of the skull 
and work out vexatious problems for herself. As to how 
satisfactory the result is when one accepts the brainwork 
of another, that all depends. The queen was contented 
with the wisdom of Solomon, and we who have read his 
history, his maxims, and his wonderful songs are not sur- 
prised. Granting all that may be lost in editing and trans- 
lation from another language, enough remains of the work 
of Solomon to prove him as wise as any man who ever 
has lived, both in thought and business transactions, and 
his maxims and poems never have been surpassed and 
probably never will be. 

After all the questions were answered, Solomon po- 
litely and unostentatiously for he was a gentleman 
showed the queen how he operated a court, managed re- 
tainers, commanded an army, amassed wealth, and pro- 
vided pleasure. She saw his stores of linen yarn for fine 
cloth, tapestry,' and embroideries. She gazed upon un- 
counted precious stones, and much gold from Ophir, which 
is a small island lying to the southeast of India. Solomon 
had so much almug, or red sandal-w r ood, that it was used 
for the pillars for the house of the Lord, and for the 
frames of harps, and musical instruments for the singers 
of the temple, and the palace of Solomon. He showed the 
queen that he received six hundred three score and six 
talents of gold each year, and spices from the merchants 
of all the kings of Arabia. 

He took her to that house in Lebanon built of fine 
cedars and filled with two hundred targets of beaten gold, 
containing six hundred sheckels each, and three hundred 
shields of gold, of three pounds' weight to the shield, and 



THE PEACOCK 379 

all the vessels of it pure gold. He showed her a throne 
of ivory overlaid with the purest gold, and surrounded by 
fourteen carved lions, and the like of it was nowhere else 
on the earth. 

She examined presents sent him by all the rulers of 
the known world; vessels of silver, gold, jewels, garments, 
armor, spices, horses, and mules. He showed her one 
thousand four hundred chariots, twelve thousand horse- 
men, how he made silver common as stones, and rare cedars 
of Lebanon common as sycamores in Jerusalem. He pa- 
raded before her hundreds of slaves, retainers, and secre- 
taries, all robed in linen and fine cloth, and wearing brace- 
lets and ornaments of gold, silver, and precious stones. 
He took her to such service, in such a temple as she did 
not know existed. He opened for her inspection the pro- 
duce of those ships of his which came once in three years 
from Tharshish, bringing "gold, and silver, and ivory, 
and apes, and peacocks." 

"And when the queen had seen all Solomon's wisdom, 
and the house that he had built, and the meat of his table 
and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his 
ministers, and their apparel, and his cup-bearers, and his 
ascent by which he went into the house of the Lord; 
there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the 
king, 'It was a true report that I heard in mine own land 
of thy acts and of thy wisdom.' ' 

So she presented her great gift of spices, one hundred 
and twenty talents of gold, and precious stones; and the 
king returned her courtesy by allowing her to select from 
his possessions anything that pleased her fancy. I am 
very sure that she took some peacocks among her selec- 
tions, for most women love to own a peacock if they can, 
and be like one if they have an opportunity. 



THE STORK 

Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her 
appointed times. " JEREMIAH. 




i 



.r 



CHAPTER XV 
THE STORK 

THE stork first appeared in the Bible among the birds 
of abomination, and it is remarkable that the crane did not 
also; for the birds are relatives, and of such similar habit 
that one would think Moses would have classed them to- 
gether. Yet the distinction he made was observed down to 
the Christian era, for Pliny quoted Cornelius Nepos, who 
died in the days of Augustus Caesar, as saying "that in 
his time storks were holden for a better dish at the 
board than cranes." Pliny added, "And yet see, how in 
our age now, no man will touch a stork if it be set before 
him on the board, but every one is ready to reach into 
the crane, and no dish is more in request." 

He also wrote, "Storks are so highly regarded for the 
slaying of serpents in Thessaly, it is regarded as a capital 
crime to kill a stork, and by law he is punished as in 
case of manslaughter." This . stringent law may account 
for the hesitancy of Italians of early days about tasting 
stork meat. Death penalties are not things with which 
men trifle. If the bird ate snakes in the land of Moses, 
we need no other explanation as to why it was placed 
among the abominations. 

This feeling concerning these birds seems to exist to- 
13 385 



386 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

day, for although of the same family, I do not know of 
stork being eaten anywhere, while cranes are a regular 
article of commerce in our country. Their meat is con- 
sidered very good by the people of our Western Coast. 

The Hebrew "hasidah," meaning kindness, is trans- 
lated stork. So undoubtedly these birds were named in 
remote ages by men who first began to study and note 
their habits. The great care the old birds exercise over 
their young, and their tenderness to each other, may have 
originated the idea that formerly prevailed that these 
birds remained in families and recognized the ties of birth 
all their lives. For this reason it was stated constantly 
by early writers that in old age the storks were cared for 
by their young, being fed when blinded, lame, or unable 
to fly. 

The storks of the Bible were migratory birds. They 
came up in clouds from interior Africa, crossed the Red 
Sea, and part of them settled in Palestine, the others kept 
on across the Mediterranean or skirting the east coast, 
entered and spread over Europe to the north as far as 
England and Holland. They had the peculiar habit of 
traveling in the daytime, and their flight was strong and 
high. The last of March, when spring had arrived in 
Palestine, some bright day Merom, Galilee, the Jordan, 
and Jabbok suddenly \vere peopled with hungry storks 
searching for lizards, frogs,' snakes, and any small animal, 
large insect, or water resident. Great flocks of these birds 
settled over ruins near marshes and water, by lakes and 
rivers in cultivated places, and in forests near the water; 
while cloud after cloud passed on farther north. 

In pointing out the carelessness of the people, Jere- 
miah called attention to the wisdom of the birds in watch- 



THE STORK 389 

ing the seasons and following them. He said, "Yea, the 
stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times," which 
proved that he had been observing the birds; and then he 
added, "but my people know not the ordinances of the 
Lord." 

The splendid picture these birds made in flight so im- 
pressed Zechariah, the man who was given to seeing vis- 
ions, that in the instance of the ephah of lead and the 
talent he said of the two women he saw bearing away 
the ephah, "The wind was in their wings, for they had 
wings like the wrings of a stork." These birds came with 
the showers and renewal of spring, settled in every avail- 
able spot all over Palestine, and began housekeeping. 

Workers in the fields saw the home life of those by 
the rivers ; fishermen were familiar with them around lakes 
of fresh water, and where rivers entered the salt seas; 
herdsmen of the plains and w T aste places watched those 
over ruins; but I doubt if they entered cities and nested 
on the housetops, as they love to do elsewhere, for those 
people used the house tops themselves. 

The birds were conspicuous, for they were large, 
standing nearly three feet, and having a sweep of almost 
seven feet. They were white, and made a wonderful spec- 
tacle on wing as they soared against the blue, purple, and 
red skies of the Orient, or stood a snowy picture fishing 
among the rushe^of lake margin or river. There was 
also a black stork, having black on the beak and neck. 
It was a smaller bird and wilder, keeping more to desert 
and wilderness places. 

Soon afteri arrival they paired and began house-build- 
ing in the easel of young couples mating for the first time, 
or old birds that found their former nests destroyed. 



390 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

For these birds build one nest, and return to it for genera- 
tions unless there is an accident. David had watched their 
nesting and described it in a poem: 

' The trees of the Lord are satisfied ; 
The cedars of Lebanon, which He hath planted : 
Where the birds make their nests ; 
As for the stork, the fir trees are her house." 

What a wonderful place Lebanon must have been! 
No wonder her trees were "satisfied," and that the birds 
flocked there to nest! It is a happy tree whose branches 
are upholding a number of beautiful bird homes, whose 
leaves shelter tender, open-mouthed young, and that makes 
choir lofts for singers raising an unceasing chorus of pure 
joy in living and praise of the Almighty. I know the 
storks nested all over Palestine, from marshes to rocky 
mountain crags; but David said the "fir trees are her 
house," and I so love David that I like to picture this bird 
as at home in the tree that he pointed out in particular 
as hers. 

People to-day are inclined to think of the stork as 
a bird of the house top, and of Holland as its home; 
but it must be remembered these houses of Bible lands 
were very different of structure, and the time was in the 
days when birds were more accustomed to building in 
trees. So the headwaters of the Jordan, which rises in 
the mountains of Lebanon, far to the north of Canaan, 
and over the mountains down to Lake Merom; all over 
Mt. Hermon, and along the waters of the hill country to- 
ward Damascus, were their locations. They especially 
loved Lebanon. Lebanon with her skies red from the re- 



THE STORK 393 

fleeted sands of Syrian deserts; Lebanon, alternately 
warmed by the hot breath of the sirocco and cooled by the 
sea breezes so near; Lebanon, with her rivers, valleys, and 
high mountains; with her air perfumed by the heavy fra- 
grance of blooming spring flowers, fruit bloom, tree bloom, 
and her hills and valleys covered with budding camphire, 
acacia, and many varieties of spice bushes, and every 
breath heavy with the exhilaration of the resinous odor 
of cedar, cypress, and fir. 

In Lebanon's great fir trees, with their flat branches 
making splendid foundations, the big white storks found 
their houses. Mated pairs renewed their yearly vows, and 
repaired their former abodes. Young ones courted strenu- 
ously, the males dancing and performing many antics, 
extremely queer to those watching, but captivating to 
their loved ones. For the storks have been noted in all 
lands and times for their tender and affectionate love be- 
tween pairs and young. People in later days in Holland 
have so marked these birds before migration that there 
could be no doubt but the same ones returned in the spring. 
L T nquestionably, storks mate for life. 

In the big, dark fir trees of the Holy Land they built 
their homes, laid their eggs, and raised their young. 
They fished in the waters, and hunted frogs and lizards 
over the mountains. To their varied diet found by water 
edges, on mountain sides and plains, they added rep- 
tiles, offal, and garbage, which of course had something 
to do with placing them among the "abominations." At 
home they made an exquisite picture of snowy contrast 
against their dark-green background, or when fishing; 
and seen against the Oriental skies on wing they were 



394 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

wonderful to behold. I think Solomon showed the beauty 
of the house of the white stork among the fir trees to 
the Queen of Sheba when he took her to the treasure 
chamber in the forest of Lebanon. I wish that all of 
us could have been there to have seen such an impressive 
picture. 



THE RAVEN 

"Consider the raven, that they sow not, neither 

reap: Which have no store-chamber nor barn; 

and God feedeth them." JESUS. 




STRATTON-PORTER 



GOD FEEDETH THEM 

"TT7*o prorideth for the raven his food?" 



CHAPTER XVI 
THE RAVEN 

BIRDS were first mentioned in the Bible in the Mosaic 
account of creation, where the great law-giver specific- 
ally indicated their serpentine origin when He wrote, 
"And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly 
the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may 
fly above the earth in the open firmament of the heaven." 
The first bird specifically mentioned was the raven. Un- 
der this name Bible writers included the whole family 
of crows, rooks, jackdaws, and ravens, all of which are 
old birds in history, and abounded in great numbers in 
the land of Canaan. 

The dove gets all the credit for finding dry land at 
the time of the flood, and yet it was a raven that was 
first sent forth to make this discovery. You read in the 
records of Moses, "And it came to pass at the end of 
forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark 
which he had made : and he sent forth a raven, which went 
forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from 
off the earth." 

Noah had a reason for all the things he did, and so 
no doubt he spent some thought upon which bird messen- 
ger he should send winging over the face of the flood to 
bring tidings of the going down of the waters. He knew 
why he first sent out a raven, and it is little trouble to 
fathom his reason. The bird was big and strong, nearly 

399 



400 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

two feet in length, with a fifty-two inch wing sweep, and 
sustained its flight well. Also, in all time it had made 
more use of its brain than any other bird. Ravens can 
do the wisest, most uncanny things. They are fearless, 
impudent, and penetrate where they please. They have 
a habit of carrying away bits of bright things which 
attract them. Their powers of mimicry are so great that 
they can imitate the human voice almost as well as a 
parrot, and say the thing appropriate to the time. They 
have great attachment to their mates, and undoubtedly 
pair for life. 

Here are many reasons why Noah made his first ex- 
periment with the raven. It would be sure to return, 
and equally it would be sure to bring anything which 
might attract its attention. It did return, no doubt 
perching upon the ark, flying as it chose, and feeding 
from floating carrion. This continued until the waters 
were gone and its mate was released to join it. But be- 
cause the dove, almost dazed by confinement on dry diet, 
ate so many olive leaves that a bit of green still clung to 
its beak, it carried off the honors, and in all time since 
has been portrayed winging its way to the ark carrying 
a neatly cut twig with several leaves, a thing quite in- 
compatible with the history or habit of the bird. But if 
it found green food it would gorge itself almost to burst- 
ing. On its return it would enter the ark and regurgi- 
tate a part of what it had eaten to its mate; which is 
not so poetic, but beyond all question what happened, and 
the source from which Noah secured the olive leaf. 

There are at least eight species of the raven in Pal- 
estine, most of them so similar to our birds of the same 
name that there is no particular difference. The Hebrew 



THE RAVEX 401 

name means black, as Solomon indicated when he used the 
bird's plumage in comparison with his conception of the 
hair of the Almighty, "His locks are bushy and black 
as the raven." 

Not only were men acquainted with the wisdom and 
cunning of the crow family, but the Almighty knew as 
well, for when He wanted a feathered servant to do His 
will, He chose a raven. You will find the story in the 
eighteenth chapter of First Kings. Elijah, a good man 
from the city of Gilead, was willing to do something for 
his fellow-men, so the word of the Lord came to him, say- 
ing: "Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide 
thyself by the brook Cherith, which is before Jordan. 
And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and 
I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there." 

Now the Almighty, who understands everything, knew 
what splendid raven territory that was. The brook Cherith 
rose on the Mount of Olives, and flowed down the moun- 
tain side among the bushes of scrub oak, thorn, and bram- 
ble, between the tall cedar and fir trees of the foothills, 
which made splendid raven nesting sites; out across the 
plain of Jericho it wandered, babbling, willow-bordered, 
rush-margined, and emptied into the Jordan River a lit- 
tle north of the Dead Sea. 

Could the face of earth discover more attractive raven 
country? There was a rocky mountain with its supply of 
small animals for food. There were great trees furnishing 
high nesting-sites, if suitable places on Olivet were not 
used. There was the little brook, giving drink to the 
ravens and singing an invitation every foot of its way 
to the river, to the jays, chats, robins, crows, and black- 
birds to nest in the branches of the bushes and trees that 



402 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

grew along its banks, and to feed upon the fruits, ber- 
ries, worms, and insects that attracted them. 

There came the ravens big, impudent black birds 
the sun shining on the metallic-like luster of the necks of 
the males, and glistening on their glossy black backs as 
they broke open soft-shelled nuts, picked the fruit, hunted 
worms, and caught crabs and clams along the brook, 
fought with kingfishers and fish hawks for the fish they 
had captured, and ate the eggs and young from every 
nest of small birds that they could find. They even 
followed the brook out to the plains of Jericho, and there 
attacked hares, or any small bird they could capture ; and 
at times, if the shepherds were not watchful, the new-born 
kids and lambs were killed. Of these the eyes were con- 
sidered the delicate morsel, and always eaten first. This 
originated, no doubt, in the fact that they could be eaten 
when the birds were hungry without waiting to tear open 
the skin, to attack the inside parts. All of them indulged 
in carrion, and so were placed among the abominations 
for food by Moses. 

If they nested in the shelter of the rocks of Olivet, 
they used small material and did not build large nests; 
but if they chose the great trees at the foot of the moun- 
tain, and nested in cedar, olive, box, or fir, they built big 
nests, large as a half bushel, of good-sized sticks and 
twigs. They averaged four eggs to the nest. Usually 
they fed upon whatever they found, and regurgitated it 
partially digested to the young. But as the nestlings 
grew, coarser food was carried them, and at times the 
ground under a nest was found littered with the bones 
of smaller birds, feathers, and fish scales, that had been 
carried to the clamoring young. 



THE RAVEX 403 

Along the brook large willows, the poplar, and plane 
tree furnished them building sites and splendid foraging 
places ; while out on the plains of Jericho grew the syc- 
amore. If it was the divine plan to have a man fed by 
ravens, certainly here was the most propitious of all spots 
to find the ravens, and for the ravens to seek food. If 
they could not have found any, the prophet could have 
lived bountifully from the fruits and berries growing all 
around the location. 

So Elijah went and concealed himself by the brook 
before the Jordan. "And the ravens brought him bread 
and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the 
evening and he drank from the brook." 

What the ravens brought Elijah for bread was not 
definitely stated. It may have been something like the 
manna upon which the Israelites were fed later on their 
journey, or some kind of nut or real bread provided for 
the birds may have been intended by Providence. There 
would be no trouble at all in them bringing from such 
an abundant location plenty of meat such as small birds, 
like quail and pigeons, and young animals. So the ravens 
were the birds that fed Elijah in the days of his conceal- 
ment on the banks of Cherith. 

The next appearance of the bird in the Bible was in 
Proverbs. Solomon had all the wisdom attributed to him, 
and no doubt much more. He knew it was the habit of 
ravens first to eat the eyes of their prey, and he used the 
fact in pointing a moral he wished to be well remembered. 
He said: 

The eye that mocketh his father, 

And despise th to obey his mother, 

The ravens of the valley shall pick it out, . 

And the young eagles shall eat it." 



404 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

In convincing Job of the wisdom and wonders of the 
Almighty, these words are to be found: 

Who provideth for the raven his food, 
When his young ones cry unto God, 
And wander for lack of meat?" 

Of course, the ravens found their food as do all other 
birds, and where they were as numerous as in Palestine 
there must have been places among its rocky gorges where 
food was scarce and difficult to secure. No doubt the 
young ones became hungry and clamored loudly. All 
young birds do; even those much less aggressive than the 
raven. But no one should interpret this passage to mean 
that the old birds neglected their young. Quite the con- 
trary. They are loving and tender w r ith their nestlings, 
and feed them until sufficiently grown to leave the nest, 
and for several days afterward, when the young really 
appear almost as large as the old. 

David noticed this habit of young ravens crying vo- 
ciferously for food, for he wrote : 

Who covereth the heaven with clouds, 

Who prepareth rain for the earth, 

Who maketh grass to grow upon the moun- 
tains : 

He giveth to the beast his food, and to the 
young ravens which cry." 

That is, He provides food with which the old ravens can 
feed their young. Also these lines prove that all birds 
and animals have their place in nature, and that it is 
right for them to find food according to their habits. 

These Bible writers seemed to be especially impressed 
with the idea that God provided for the feeding of the 



THE RAVEX 405 

ravens, as if they might have been a favored bird of 
Divinity, as was indicated in the choice of them first to 
leave the ark, and to sustain Elijah. 

The second appearance of the raven in the Bible was 
after the Exodus, when Moses was striving to arrange 
suitable diet which would nourish and not sicken the peo- 
ple. Following the eagle and the vulture, he names the 
raven among the birds of abomination. 

This, of course, was because of its habit of eating 
dead bodies, as did the vultures. Had the raven confined 
itself to fresh food, the ban might not have been placed 
upon it, for it had as great a variety of diet as any 
bird living. It ate almost anything you could mention, 
and then went further and ate of things you would not 
wish to mention, so that it was blacklisted by Moses, and 
in its case the ban still holds. 

That this variety of food was good for the birds was 
beyond all question, for many specimens fed in captivity 
have lived from seventy to eighty years of age; and no 
doubt in freedom and under natural conditions even longer 
than that. 

They were incorporated in the religion of several other 
nations, showing them to have been a favored bird in all 
time. In the New Testament Christ said of them, "Con- 
sider the ravens: that they sow not, neither reap; which 
have no store chamber nor barn; and God feedeth them: 
of how much more value are ye than the birds?" 

This was a warning to the disciples not to be too 
careful concerning their manner of living. In fact, where 
natural products varied as those of Palestine, the care 
we exercise as to food and clothing was not necessary. 
Not only the birds found their food without sowing and 



406 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

reaping, but men literally could live from the fruits and 
vegetables that grew wild in the wonderful variety of soil 
and climate. 

Aristotle noted the clamor of young ravens for food, 
and it was his opinion that so soon as they left the nest 
the old birds drove the young out of their locality and 
forced them to find food in other places. I doubt this, as 
bird habits change slowly, and our ravens follow the 
young several days after leaving the nest, and feed them 
when the ruffled, flapping, open-mouthed youngsters ap- 
pear larger than the parents. 

Pliny confined his history of the raven almost entirely 
to its ability to learn to speak and its acts of cunning. For 
instance, he told a story of a raven that found a bucket 
by a sepulcher in time of great drought, and raised the 
water to a drinking level by dropping stones into the 
bucket. 

Almost all Biblical mention of the raven was made in 
the shape of simile and metaphor, but these allusions 
served to drive home a point and make a thing well re- 
membered, which was the reason they were used. They 
also grounded a feeling against the bird, just as similar 
things have prejudiced the unthinking against the owl and 
hawk. The raven is a curious bird, and at different epochs 
in the world has figured in much interesting history. 

There is against it that it is a carrion eater, that 
we were early prejudiced on account of its being used 
to scare people ; that it preys upon other birds and help- 
less animals ; that it will carry away anything small and 
bright it can pick up ; and that where it is shown any 
mercy at all it develops an impudence and boldness that 
is annoying. 



THE RAVEX 407 

There is in its favor splendid size and appearance ; it 
had the qualities that made Noah select it as the first bird 
to send from the ark; the Almighty honored it by mak- 
ing it His instrument for the care of Elijah; it is tender 
and loving with its mate and nestlings; it is very valiant 
in defense of its young; and it is connected with much 
mythology, many religions, and is one of the oldest and 
most interesting birds of history. 



THE PELICAN 

am like a pelican of the wilderness. 9 '' DAVID. 



CHAPTER XVII 
THE PELICAN 

OF all the birds of flight that occupied the stretch 
of sea coast along the western borders of Bible lands, the 
white and brown pelicans were the largest and most pic- 
turesque. Much of this coast was rocky declivity or 
stretches of sand covered with scrub trees and bushes, 
beaten by the winds sweeping the length of the great 
sea. To the west washed the Mediterranean, dotted with 
ships of commerce and small crafts of deep sea fisher- 
men ; to the east rose the mountains of Palestine, while 
foothills, valleys, and fertile plains lay between. But 
as the country was not over sixty miles wide in its 
least extent, and one hundred in its greatest, it is prob- 
able that most of the inhabitants were familiar with the 
sights and sounds of the sea. So they knew its gentle 
breath of summer singing, and were swept by its wildest 
gales of winter wrath. They were accustomed to the soft 
clouds that hung over it in calm, the mountainous black 
ones of storm, all the reds and yellows of the glory of 
the setting sun, the endless reflections from shimmering 
water, and the vivid color of almost tropical land. 

No part of the picture was more wonderful than the 
great white birds that swept across the waters, fished 
around the shores, and perched on the trees or rocks of 
the coast, sleeping while their food digested. 

David must have been feeling at his very worst when 

413 



414 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

he compared himself with these great, disconsolate-look- 
ing birds as they perched, for I do not think he in any 
way resembled them. But any soul tuned to the poetic 
heights of David also knows the depths of despair; 
and it was in old age, when trouble came, that he likened 
himself to the pelican. Of course, there is the usual dis- 
cussion as to whether the pelican is the bird intended, 
some claiming that sea coast is not wilderness. That is 
just what great stretches of Mediterranean coast were in 
the days of David : miles of sand and rocks, scrubby trees, 
and the islands near the coast were complete wilderness. 

The Hebrew "kaath" means "to vomit," and so either 
the pelican or its close relative, the cormorant, was in- 
tended, as both these birds disgorge immense quantities 
of food to their nesting mates and young. The pelican 
probably took its name from its habit of emptying its 
pouch when frightened, to lighten its weight for flight. 
So the term seems more appropriate to it than to the 
cormorant, which is not credited with this habit. 

Pelicans perching were the homeliest birds imaginable. 
But on wing any bird that could range cloud spaces, 
with snowy wings sweeping eight and one-half feet in ex- 
tent, above a great turbulent sea, was a most impressive 
picture. The pelicans were included in the awe, color 
splendor, and majesty of the great sea, and all the in- 
land water that they also inhabited in Bible times. Then 
they dropped from their high estate, and perching, 
gorged, and sleepy, their big bills pressing their breasts 
in dejected attitude, they became birds of "abomination." 
Their diet and habits placed them among the creatures 
prohibited for food ; and this unprepossessing attitude, 
and their coarse, rough, grunting voices, went fur- 



THE PELICAX 417 

ther and classed them with the birds used to inspire terror 
and repulsion in people who were being warned of the 
devastation that followed evil living. 

The white pelican had yellow tints on the top of the 
head and neck, and the tip of the beak was red. It 
stood five feet in height, and had a wide wing-sweep. The 
beak was very long, the upper mandible having a sharp 
tip curving over the lower. Under the lower mandible, 
and extending down the throat, was a large pouch in 
which the bird collected the fish for its food and to carry 
to its nest. The capacity of this pouch was so great that 
the pelican could load it with fresh fish until unable to 
fly with the weight, and so it took its name from its 
power to eject this burden when it wished to fly in fear. 

The white birds were pictures of the morning and 
evening sky. When the sun peeped over the Lebanon 
ranges, topped Gilead, and day dawned in the brilliant 
splendor of Palestine, these big white birds aroused 
from sleep. Spreading their large snowy wings, they 
arose to great heights by beating and soaring alternately, 
thus airing and exercising their bodies. Then they 
dropped from the brilliant cloud spaces, waded along the 
shores of the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea, Galilee, and 
the Jordan, and caught a supply of fish to last until even- 
ing. Through the middle of the day they perched and 
digested their food. 

Again at evening, when the red sun swung above 
the Arabian desert, crossed Egypt, and buried itself in 
the green waters of the great sea, the white pelicans took 
wing, as if to gain a high space from which to observe 
the purple, yellow, red, and blue of the sky as the great 
ball of fire sank slowly into the water. Over the wilderness 



418 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

spaces of coast, over the villages of the fishermen, over 
the ports of commerce, half way across the brilliant spaces 
of Palestine, they sailed and soared ; now over the Medi- 
terranean, again above land, and only the Almighty knew 
what they saw. But I love to try to think myself up 
there with them, and imagine the sunset, and the glory of 
night on the sea and land in the Palestine of those days. 

The brown pelicans were even larger than the white; 
the greatest, called the Dalmatian, standing a foot taller 
and having a twelve-foot sweep of wing. The brown birds 
had a head of dirty white, tinged with yellow on the top 
and on the throat, the long beak and pouch of the species, 
and webbed feet similar to geese. All of them were in- 
different walkers, but of strong flight. 

They loved to congregate along wilderness places by 
the sea. The male birds were strenuous lovers, arid courted 
their mates with much attention. They helped build nests, 
with their big beaks breaking twigs from dead bushes 
and placing them crosswise until they had a deep, solid 
foundation. This they hollowed out and lined with dry 
reeds, rushes, and roots. These nests were at times five 
and six feet across. The birds usually laid three rough 
eggs, varying in tint with the species. Those of the 
brown birds were dirty white with a rosy flush, and of 
the white ones, a whiter egg with bluish tints. 

The young were naked at first, then covered with white 
down, and they feathered before leaving the nest. The 
brown birds fished throughout the day, and gathered 
greater quantities of larger size than the white. Fish 
weighing two and a half pounds have been taken from 
the pouch of the male. They carried such numbers to 
a nest that the young could not consume them, and 




I 

rO 




THE PELICAN 421 

many were dropped on the ground. The hot sun of the 
seashore shining on this offal between the closely placed 
nests soon produced conditions unbearable to mortals. 
Small wonder Moses thought pelicans unfit for food. 

Pliny described a bird that, from the text, I think 
must have been a pelican. He wrote: "The onocrotali 
much resemble swans, and surely they might be thought 
the very same and no other, but that they have within 
their throat another kind of gizzar beside the craw, in 
which these fowls, being insatiable, bestow all that ever 
they can get ; whereby it is of a wonderful great capacity 
and will receive very much. Now when they have done 
ravening and filled this poke, soon after they conveyed it 
thence by little and little into their mouth, and there chew 
the cud until after it be well prepared, they swallow it 
down into the very craw and belly indeed." This appeals 
to me as pelican history. 

So these great birds were a familiar sight to all resi- 
dents of Bible lands, for they were to be seen all along 
the coast, around the inland lakes and rivers, and winging 
their flight back and forth across the plains and valleys 
as they changed feeding grounds or flew for exercise. 
Because the Holy Land covered so little space, it is cer- 
tain people were familiar with the hoarse, grunting cries 
of the pelicans, though they were not very great talkers. 

We know what it means when Moses put a bird on 
the abomination list ; and from the use all other Bible 
writers made of the pelican, one only can conclude that 
they are much more effective as a part of a wonderful 
landscape picture than they were as congenial neighbors 
near the habitations of men. If they had not been 



422 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

disagreeable, and a thing to be dreaded, they would not 
have been effectual in a picture intended to frighten people. 

When Zephaniah predicted destruction for Assyria and 
Nineveh, he added the pelican to the picture: "And herds 
shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the 
nations: both the pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in 
the chapiters thereof: their voice shall sing in the win- 
dows; desolation shall be in the thresholds; for He hath 
laid bare the cedar work." 

That is, the cedar frame and rafters which formed the 
inner support of these low structures made of big bricks 
of clay shall stand out a skeleton above crumbling walls, 
and jackals, wolves, bear, and hyenas shall prowl there. 
Pelicans perching on the tottering woodwork shall grunt 
their hoarse cry, bittern shall boom in the night time, and 
desolation to chill the heart shall reign. This quotation 
is from the new version, and it substitutes "porcupine" 
for "bittern," which is a large mistake. The voices of the 
porcupine do not "sing in the windows," while bittern are 
among the loudest-voiced creatures of night, as I have 
explained elsewhere. 

In drawing a like picture under similar circumstances, 
Isaiah made the same comparison, "The pelican and the 
porcupine shall possess it." This completes the Biblical 
reference to these birds, and their history makes their 
use in such connections evident. 



THE PIGEON 

"And If the oblation to the Lord be a burnt offering 

of fowls, then shall he offer his oblation of turtle 

doves or young pigeons." MOSES. 



CHAPTER XVIII 
THE PIGEON 

THE distinction between pigeons and doves of Bible 
lands was not drawn strongly by the people. Pigeons 
were either semi-domesticated or flocked in clouds in wild 
estate over ravines and wilderness thickets. Doves were 
wild, being kept in cages as pets only in especial instances. 
Also they were migratory. They came in the spring with 
the crane and the swallow, and went in the fall. But they 
were much tamer than wild pigeons, living in pairs, and 
coming into palm groves, the fruit trees of gardens, and 
building on houses even, if they could find base for a nest. 
The wild pigeons were much shyer, and kept farther 
from the haunts of man, and made longer flights in food 
hunting. They were warier than the doves and were not 
so easily taken in nets and traps. Doves remained closer 
to their nests and were great food hunters of earth; so 
they were captured easily. 

I can find no record of which country first domesticated 
the wild pigeon, but I believe it to have been these resi- 
dents of Palestine. So long before the days of Moses 
that there are no records, men had trained pigeons to be- 
come so friendly that they nested and spent their entire 
lives near habitations offering them shelter, in crevices of 
rocky walls, and on buildings. In primitive days one of the 
bases of a man's wealth was the number of pigeon cotes 
he owned. 

427 



428 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

These cotes were usually of clay or some form of pot- 
tery, and they resembled a large square or diamond of tile, 
made up of many smaller diamonds closed at the back. 
Each entrance was large enough to admit one pair of birds, 
their nest material, and young. The openings appeared 
like small windows, and were similar, but each pair of 
birds knew its home and lived in it without trespass on 
the rights of the remainder of the flock. Their habits 
and characteristics were exactly the same as they are to- 
day, for Moses found them in this domesticated state 
among all the neighboring peoples when he led the He- 
brews into the Promised Land. 

Ducks, geese, and swans always abounded on the 
waters of Palestine, but never in great numbers, as the 
climate was too nearly tropical in most locations to agree 
with the habits of these birds of colder waters and lands. 
Solomon imported peafowl, and though I can make no 
absolutely accurate statement, it is fair to presume that 
when the cock and hen were sufficiently familiar in Greece 
to be mentioned casually in a bird play by Aristophanes, 
444 B. C., they were well known in the Bible lands at 
the same time. The ships of mighty kings such as David 
and Solomon touched every known harbor, and their wealth 
brought to their courts every portable luxury. So I think 
it reasonable to fix the date of the entrance of poultry 
into Palestine at about 600 B. C. 

Pigeons and doves are very close relatives, coupled in 
every mention I can find of them when being used as 
sacrifices; it being stated expressly that one or the other 
or both were to be offered. They were so loved that they 
almost were held sacred. When spoken of in the laws of 
Moses as sacrifice, doves always were mentioned first, while 



THE PIGEQX 431 

pigeons seemed to be second choice. Possibly it was 
thought that it would be a greater sacrifice to the Al- 
mighty to enter the palm groves, olive orchards, and spicy 
thickets, and secure wild doves or to purchase them from 
a dealer in birds than to go to a pigeon cote and pick 
up a pair of young. 

Moses decreed, "And if his oblation to the Lord be 
a burnt offering of fowls, then shall his oblation be of 
turtle doves or of young pigeons." Over and over in 
the history of sacrifices this was repeated. At times the 
text varied to specify that if doves could not be secured, 
pigeons might be used. When the doves had migrated, 
the only way to secure them would have been by 
purchase from dealers who had kept caged specimens 
for market purposes. The poor could not afford this, 
so they offered of their precious pets from the rude cotes 
near their homes or went to the deep valleys and crevices 
leading to caves, and took young pigeons from the nest. 

The conception and history of sacrifice is a strange 
thing. To some people it seems repulsive that the shed- 
ding of blood should be thought pleasing to an Al- 
mighty God. From the beginning of the records of 
man the history of all nations proves that none ever 
was founded without the worship of some god or deity 
being the basis of their civilization. Whether they wor- 
shiped the sun, the elements, animals, or imaginary 
spirits, all people always believed that it was pleasing 
to the object of their adoration to offer, in the best 
way possible, of their dearest possessions. Among heathen 
nations this even extended to the sacrifice of human 
life. So when the Hebrews became convinced of the ex- 
istence of an Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, 



432 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

they only followed the example of all the remainder of 
the world when they built an altar and laid thereon of 
their best possessions as a voluntary gift. To-day we build 
costly churches and offer time and money. At that period 
people had little money ; wealth consisted of personal pos- 
sessions such as flocks and precious stones, metals, spices, 
and tapestry. So they gave time, and the finest of their 
birds and beasts. 

In almost every instance the sacrifice called for young 
birds, in pairs, but there were occasions when a great 
sacrifice of heifers, goats, and lambs was made, that one 
bird of a kind was used, or a single bird of either. No 
fowl except pigeons or doves were used, so there is little 
doubt that the law of Moses regarding the capture of 
birds referred mostly to them, and was made that they 
might not become extinct. 

Among the laws for personal conduct in the twenty- 
second chapter of Deuteronomy you will find this: "If 
a bird's nest chance to be before you in the way, in any 
tree or on the ground, with the young ones or eggs, and 
the dam sitting upon the eggs or upon the young, thou 
shalt not take the dam with the young; thou shalt in 
any wise let the dam go, but the young thou mayest 
take unto thyself." 

This is probably the first law for the protection of 
birds in the history of the world. It was a very wise 
provision, for it left the mother to raise more young. 
While I believe it to have been intended mostly for the 
protection of doves and pigeons, the clause "on the 
ground" covers sparrows, larks, quail, and other low 
builders, which were taken for food and caged pets. 

How universal and how loved were the pigeons and 



THE PIGEQX 435 

doves was proven by the fact that they were mentioned 
more frequently than any other bird by these observers 
of nature, and always as they were offered a loving 
sacrifice, by way of comparison, or in exquisite poetic 
outburst of devotion to the Almighty. Because people 
appreciated them above all other feathered creatures, they 
offered these pairs of innocent and tender young birds to 
the Almighty with tears and prayers of repentance, when 
they felt they had sinned or defiled themselves. They 
gave them in the hope that the sacrifice of such loved 
and beautiful creatures would leave men with clean hearts 
and pure bodies. 

Moses stated that a pair of young doves and a pair 
of young pigeons were to be offered in purification of 
a leper. If anything would heal this dreadful disease, it 
almost seems that the sacrifice of four loving and beauti- 
ful birds that enjoy life as do doves and pigeons might 
avail. 

So close is the relationship of the birds, and so slight 
the distinction between them in the law, that I doubt if 
the casual observer always distinguished one from the 
other among the wild. I believe that Solomon, David, 
and Isaiah, who say such exquisite things concerning them, 
were thinking quite as much of the pigeons that flut- 
tered around their homes and temples, and of the wild 
pigeons of the wilderness, as they were of the doves of 
the fruit orchards, palm groves, and spice thickets. 

No bird form was nearly so common as the pigeons 
cooing over the cotes of every home of the country, 
small villages, and even the royal city, Jerusalem. These 
birds were so fed and petted by the people that later 
Pliny wrote that in Rome a man could call a pigeon from 



436 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

the nest on which she brooded, to his hand, as he sat in- 
side his home. 

In some instances where even the latest and most schol- 
arly revision of the Bible says "doves," the text makes 
it quite plain that pigeons were the birds intended by the 
writer. Take the beautiful song of Redemption sung by 
Isaiah, in the sixtieth chapter of his book, and study this 
couplet : 

( Who are these that fly as a cloud, 
And as doves to their windows?" 

Doves were wild birds; they had no windows. But 
the openings for the entrance of pigeons to their clay 
cotes closely resembled latticed windows. Moreover, doves 
lived their lives in pairs and flew "in clouds" only twice 
a year, at the times of migration. The pigeons of vil- 
lages and cities scattered over the country searching the 
grain fields, plains, and thickets for seeds and other food, 
and returned to their cotes "in clouds" at all hours of 
the day, all the year long. This makes me positive that 
the last line should read, "And as pigeons to their win- 
dows?" Also I am sure that the dove that dwelt in the 
"clefts of the rock, in the covert of the steep place," was 
a rock pigeon. 

Any reference to the voice of these birds w r ould apply 
equally to either by one not skillful in bird notes, and 
I have not a doubt but the cages that Jesus removed from 
the temple contained almost as many pigeons as doves. 

The records of no other country show that pigeons 
were so housed and protected as in Bible lands; and it 
may be from centuries of such intimacy with them that 
men of those nations are to-day the breeders of the finest 



THE PIGEON 439 

pigeons in the whole world. There was originated the 
rare black carrier, the trumpeter, and the fantail. 

Pliny wrote of pigeons under the heading of "house- 
doves." He recorded their faithful life in pairs, and 
all the things which other observers have to say of these 
birds. He was of the opinion that the male was a little 
more "harsh and imperious," than any historian with 
whose work I am familiar. Among points not commonly 
noted he said, "So soon as the eggs be hatched, ye 
shall see them at the very first spit into the mouths of 
the young pigeons salt and brackish earth, which they 
have gathered in their throat, thereby to prepare their 
appetite to meat and to season their stomachs against the 
time that they should eat." He made a note concerning 
their manner of drinking not often mentioned: "House- 
doves and turtle-doves have this property, in their drink- 
ing not to hold up their bills between whiles, and draw 
their necks back, but to take a large draught at once as 
horses and kine do." He wrote beautifully of their joy- 
ous flight, merely to work off an excess of delight in liv- 
ing, and of the clapping of wings with which it was ac- 
complished. In what he had to say of pigeons there was 
less of superstition and tradition than any other bird. No 
doubt this was because they were familiar objects around 
his home, and he could see for himself what they did. 

Because of all the reasons enumerated here and in 
the dove chapter these two birds were the most loved and 
honored above all others in the Bible. 






THE CRANE 

"Like a crane so did I chatter." ISAIAH. 




CRESTED AFRICAN CRANE 



'The crane observe the time of their coming." 



CHAPTER XIX 
THE CRANE 

The crane is mentioned twice in the Bible. Once be- 
cause it made an unforgettable picture in migration, and 
again because its voice was a distinctive feature of bird 
life. Isaiah said, "Like a crane, so did I chatter." If 
he did, he must have been quite noisy, for the cranes 
are voluminous talkers, and when they are in a favorable 
location their voices can be heard for two miles. They 
fly in wedge-shaped companies in migration, and cry al- 
most constantly. We express it by "whooping" or "trum- 
peting," but the Arabs call it "bellowing." At any rate, 
it was a sound of sufficient force to be used by Isaiah in 
strong comparison, and helped bring the bird into the 
Bible. 

The other characteristic of the crane that introduced 
it was that it was migratory. Jeremiah recorded that 
"the crane observe the time of their coming." The people 
watched for the crane. It was a sure sign of spring, the 
best-loved season, and this bird was, after the pelican, the 
largest that migrated, and next to the pelican and ostrich 
in size. It stood four feet in height, and was eight feet 
from tip to tip, so that it was a spectacle as it came wing- 
ing across the Red Sea or stalked over the country. 

Cranes were not nearly so numerous as the storks, but 
yet great flocks of them stopped in the wilderness south 

445 



446 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

of Jerusalem, around Beersheba, arid a few pairs homed 
near water so far as Merom, where cultivated land at- 
tracted them. From there the great body of the species 
crossed the Mediterranean to Europe. Of this journey 
of the cranes Pliny wrote : "And verily, if a man consider 
well how far it is from hence to the Levant Sea, it is a 
mighty great journey that they take, and their flight ex- 
ceeding long. They put not themselves in their journey, 
nor set forward without a council called before, and a 
general consent. They fly aloft because they would have 
a better prospect to see before them: and for this purpose 
a captain they choose to guide them, whom the rest fol- 
low. In the rearward behind there be certain of them 
set and disposed to give signal by their manner of cry, 
for to range orderly in ranks and to keep close together 
in array : and this they do by turns, each in his course. 
They maintain a set watch all the night long, and have 
their sentinels. These stand on one foot and hold a little 
stone within the other, which by falling from it, if they 
would chance to sleep, might awaken them and reprove 
them for their negligence. While these watch, all the rest 
sleep, couching their heads under their wings ; and one 
while they rest on one foot and otherwhiles they shift to 
the other. The captain beareth up his head aloft into 
the air, and giveth signal to the rest what is to be done. 
These cranes, if they be made tame and gentle, are very 
playful and wanton birds, and they will one by one dance 
as it were, and run round with their long necks shaking 
full untowardly. This is surely known, that when they 
mind to take a flight over the Sea Pontus, they will fly 
at first directly to the narrow point at the straights of 
the said sea, lying between the two capes Criu-Metophon 



THE CRAXE 449 

and Carambis, and then presently they ballast themselves 
with stones in their feet, and sand in their throats, that 
they fly more steady and endure the wind. When they 
be half way over, down they fling these stones: but when 
they are come to the continent the sand also they disgorge 
out of their craw." 

As this stands, it is fairly good natural history, save 
the stone and sand part of it, which is pure tradition, 
and incredible. It is instances like these, in the case of 
what almost might be called contemporaneous writers, 
that make the older historians of the Bible appear so 
sane and vital in what they have to say of the birds. 

Aristotle said cranes fought so fiercely that men might 
take them alive while engaged in a battle, and also that 
"many prudent actions appear to be performed by cranes." 
But what these actions were, he did not state. 

In their chosen locations they nested on the ground, 
or in colonies in trees. Their nests were large heaps of 
twigs and debris, and they laid two big eggs differing 
with species. The white cranes laid rough, pale-blue eggs 
having brown splotches on the larger end; and the brown 
birds a light drab w T ith brown speckles. They were care- 
ful parents, though not so tender and loving as storks. 
They ate mice, rats, moles, and any small animal they 
could capture, as well as frogs and lizards. 



THE OWLS 

**/ am become as an owl of the waste place." DAVID. 




HORNED OWL 



STRATTON-PORTER 



"There shall the great owl make her nest." 



CHAPTER XX 
THE OWLS 

WHEN night fell over the Holy Land, and all the 
country from Edom and the desert of Shur to the farthest 
northward range of Lebanon, and from Syria and Arabia 
to the great sea, lay under its spell, the reign of the owl 
family began. When the tropical moon silvered the sands 
of the desert, stretched molten paths across the seas, 
sailed with the current down the Jordan, and laughed at 
her reflected face in Merom and the Red Sea, the great 
horned owl crept from the homes of the dead near Car- 
mel, from caves of robbers close to Gennesaret, from ruins 
around Jericho, from fallen cities in Judea, from desert 
thickets, from mountain and forest fastnesses, and lifted 
its weird voice. 

Then all the little owls from Tyre to Askelon set up 
their wavering accompaniment to the beating surf of the 
Mediterranean. Their companions of ruins, hollow trees, 
caves, desert thickets and forests, lakes and rivers, over 
plain, field, and valley called to each other to awake and 
come out to moonlight, love-making, and good feeding. 

Not to be surpassed, the screech owl from the hills near 
Damascus, the Lebanon valleys, down the coast from Sidon 
to Gaza, around Merom, near the cities of the Jordan 
Valley from Sechem to Jerusalem, close to Nazareth and 
Bethlehem, raised their wavering voices in a chant to the 
moon, the friend to night-hunters. 

455 



456 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

Belated caravans crossing the wilderness of Shur, com- 
ing in from the Arabian desert and across the hot sands 
of Syria, called to lagging camels and urged them to 
hasten. Shepherds watching their herds and flocks over 
hills, in valleys, and at watering-places near the edges of 
the desert shuddered and whispered an appeal to the living 
God for protection ; for superstition was in their blood, and 
the cries were awesome. All the inhabitants of field and 
plain felt the heart leap of apprehension. In villages 
and walled cities tired workers turned on their beds and 
breathed a prayer for safety. When the wail broke in 
the gardens around the palaces of kings where great courts 
held revel, people shuddered as they danced. 

For the owl is introduced in the Bible only to say that 
it is unfit for human food, and to prove that its voice 
can add a last touch to any picture of horror. This bird 
appeared as frequently as any other in the Bible of 
my childhood. Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah all put 
it into every picture of desolation they drew. The latest 
versions seem to feel that this was a mistake of trans- 
lators, and that the bird intended was the ostrich. Per- 
haps this is right, but I doubt it in most instances. The 
ostrich had sufficient vocal accomplishments to entitle it 
to a place among any list of horrors made by sound, but 
the ostrich was a bird of light, of wide range, and vora- 
cious appetite. I imagine that when it had hunted all 
day searching for food along the edges of the desert, and 
returned to its nest at night, it was tired enough to 
sleep until morning. Moreover, it was a bird that was 
not found near many of the ruins mentioned, w r here 
the latest versions place it; for most of these were 
caused by the fortunes of w r ar and were the remains 




LITTLE OWL 



STRATTON-PORTER 



"These ye shall have in abomination." 



THE OWLS 459 

of cities built near fertile valleys, rich farming land, 
fruit orchards, and gardens. Ruins were among too 
much civilization, where there were too many people to 
pursue the ostrich for its valuable plumage, and where 
its nesting conditions did not prevail. Almost without 
exception the owl belonged to the locations described, 
was altogether a creature of the night, had the voice to 
fill all the requirements of the text, and vocalized con- 
stantly in courting, hunting, and singing for joy of the 
moonlight on Lebanon range, Galilee lake, and shining 
Merom water. 

The first place in the new version I find the owl left 
in such a picture as these Bible writers painted when pre- 
dicting desolation, was when Isaiah called on the nations 
to come and hear what he had to say concerning "utter 
destruction." It was that prophecy in which the streams 
were to be turned to pitch, the dust to brimstone, the smoke 
to ascend forever, and no one should even pass through the 
land. "But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess 
it; and the owl and the raven shall dwell therein: and he 
shall stretch over it the line of confusion and the plummet 
of emptiness." Thorns were to grow in the palaces, and 
thistles in the fortresses, and all kinds of beasts, monsters, 
and dragons were to live there. 

The other owl I find of all those that produced such 
delightful shudders in my first acquaintance with the 
Bible, is in that psalm of David, in which in declining 
life he felt so discouraged over his greatest sin: for 
David was one of the best men of an age when Chris- 
tians really lived what they taught. In his case it was 
almost as much artistic temperament as real necessity for 
self-abasement, for undoubtedly David was the most lov- 



460 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

able character of all the writers of the Old Testament. 
But he felt that his one lapse darkened his whole record, 
and he was a poet, so he voiced his depression in these 
lines : 

My heart is smitten like grass and withered ; 

For I forget to eat my bread : 

By reason of the voice of my groaning, 

My bones cleave to my flesh. 

I am like a pelican of the wilderness ; 

I am become as an owl of the w r aste places. 

I watch, and am become like a sparrow 

That is alone upon the house top." 

The reason the owl figured in these pictures of deso- 
lation and among the food that was an abomination, was 
because it deserved to be there in the last instance, and 
was slandered in the first. As an article of diet, the 
owl was not attractive. Its meat was dark, rank, and 
tough at an early age. The food of the bird was almost 
entirely meat; rats, mice, fowl, and small living creatures 
it could capture and swallow. 

Mated pairs seemed affectionate near their nests, which 
they placed according to species and location. They 
brooded in caves, on dark cliffs, in hollow trees, towers, 
holes in walls, branches of trees in the open, burrows in 
embankments, and in the sand of the desert and waste 
places. They laid from four to six eggs, according to 
species, and cared for their young with great solicitude. 
These young were downy little white babies, the most 
cunning imaginable; and they feathered slowly, so that 
only one brood to a season was possible. 

The Bible mentions the "great owl," the "little owl," 
and the "screech owl." They also had an owl which closely 




SCREECH OWL STRATTON-PORTER 

"The screech owl also shall rest there." 



THE OWLS 463 

resembled our barn owl, but no passage seems to refer 
directly to it; though it is the bird that most probably 
would be in the timbers of ruined cities and in mosque and 
temple towers. The great owl was almost two feet in 
height and closely resembled our great horned owl. 

The "little owl" might have been any one of a num- 
ber of small species which could make the required noise. 
We still designate one family of small owls by the name 
"screech" because of their peculiar wavering cry. The 
ancients originated the idea. 

It is certain that when night came, and the owls cried 
in forest, ruin, cave, temple, vineyards, and gardens, every 
one shuddered. This was altogether unfair to the bird. 
Owls are unusually safe in their daytime seclusion and 
their night-hunting. They remain in pairs for life, and 
live in the same location, which proves them satisfied and 
happy birds. When they lift up their voices and "hoot," 
and "to-whit-to-whoo," and waver, quaver, and screech, 
they are courting a mate, calling to locate one another, 
or performing a hallelujah anthem to the glory of the 
Almighty, who made them with art so perfect to their 
environment that they exult for abounding joy of life, 
as do the lark and linnet. 

When the owl had been housed all day in darkness, 
night came, and it awoke and went out to find food for 
its family, why should it not perch on a sycamore and 
tell the Almighty what it thought of the forests of Leba- 
non and Judea, while the moon sailed serenely across the 
sky, while falling dew concentrated the heavy odors near 
the face of earth, when the night hawk and bat wavered 
near it hunting sweet-loving insects, called a-wing by 
night perfumes? The lark caroled over the grain fields 



464 BIRDS OF THE BIBLE 

of Boaz, the blackbirds praised the rushes of Galilee, the 
thrushes extolled the spice thickets of Sharon ; why should 
not the owl chant of moonlight, good hunting, and its 
happy home in Palestine? 

But every nation, from the beginning of time, has 
abused this bird, forgetful of its beautiful plumage, its 
miraculous eyes, its noble appearance, and the marvels of 
evolution that could result in such a creature. 

Always its cry is the basis of the discrimination 
against it. Nigidius said that owls had the power to 
change their voices "into nine different tunes." He must 
have heard nine different species of owl, and thought one 
was making all the music. Pliny classed them among the 
most unlucky of all birds, and his description of them 
surely is forceful. Here is what he had to record of owls 
and screech owls: 

"These see but badly in the daytime. The screech owl 
always betokeneth some heavy news and is most execrable 
and accursed, and namely in the presages of public affairs : 
he keepeth ever in deserts: and loveth not only such un- 
peopled places, but also that are horrible and hard of 
access. In summe, he is the very monster of the night, 
neither crying nor singing out clear, but uttering a cer- 
tain heavy groan of doleful mourning. And therefore if 
he be seen to fly either within cities, or otherwise about 
in any place, it is not good, but prognosticates some fear- 
ful misfortune. Howbeit I myself know that he hath 
sitten upon many houses of private men, and yet no deadly 
accident followed thereupon." 

I am very happy that Pliny added that last line. It 
is good to hear some one speak a word of commendation 
for these birds. I am glad that no deadly misfortune 




YOUNG SCREECH OWLS 



STR ATTON - PORTER 



In training for the midnight serenade. 



THE OWLS 467 

happened those upon whose houses a stray screech owl 
chanced to perch. I have been in the habit of opening 
the windows, and calling them into the cabin in winter, 
and letting them perch upon my hands and head as I 
made studies of them. They are of the birds with which 
I can converse so familiarly as to receive a reply, and toll 
them w r ith my voice. If any deadly misfortune has be- 
fallen me, I am not 'yet aware of it. The Almighty made 
the owls; so they have their place and province. 

Attar, the Persian poet, shared all these prejudices, 
for in his Bird Parliament he made the owl say of itself: 

I tell you, my Delight 
Is in the Ruin and the Dead of Night 
Where I was born, and where I love to wone 
All my life long, sitting on some cold stone 
Away from all your roystering companies, 
In some dark Corner where a Treasure lies ; 
That, buried by some Miser in the Dark, 
Speaks up to me at Midnight like a Spark 
And o'er it like a Talisman I brood, 
Companion of the Serpent and the Toad." 

I am very fond of the owls. I dislike to see any bird 
become an object of repulsion merely because its voice 
does not harmonize with our standard of melody. All 
birds can not be larks and nightingales ; but it is not 
their fault; and who are we, that we presume to criticise 
the creations of the Almighty or the workings of evolu- 
tion as He has planned them? 




Finis 



4mfl