From the collection of the
San Francisco, California
'Doth the hawk -fly by thy wisdom?"
BIRDS OF THE IBLE
CINCINNATI : JENNINGS AND GRAHAM
NEW YORK: EATON AWE> MAINS
BY JENNINGS AND GRAHAM
TO MY MOTHER, MARY STRATTON
THE SONG OF THE CARDINAL
WHAT I HAVE DONE WITH BIRDS
AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW
A GlRL OF THE LlMBERLOST
BIRDS OF THE BIBLE
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,
XIII. THE SWALLOW,
XIV. THE PEACOCK,
XV. THE STORK,
XVI. THE RAVEN,
XVII. THE PELICAN,
XVI1L THE PIGEON,
XIX. THE CRANE,
XX. THE OWLS,
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
"As BIRDS FLYING DOWN HE SPRINKLETH THE
"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."
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
"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
THE "LAUGHING JACKASS" OF REMOTE AN-
BABY SHRIKE QUARRELED IN THE THORN
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
"WHERE SHE MAY LAY HER YOUNG." 349
YOUNG "BIRDS OF FREEDOM." 353
"GAVEST THOU THE GOODLY THINGS UNTO THE
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
WHITE CRANE. 447
"THERE SHALL THE GREAT OWL MAKE HER
"THESE YE SHALL HAVE IN ABOMINATION." 457
"THE SCREECH OWL ALSO SHALL REST THERE." 461
IN TRAINING FOR THE MIDNIGHT SERENADE. 465
"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.
"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."
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
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
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
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
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/
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
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-
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
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
Detail of foot and tail
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
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
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,
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
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
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
'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
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-
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
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-
"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
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.
'Ah, the land of the rustling of wings,
Which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia."
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.
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
IX THE TIME OF CHRIST
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
' 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
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
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
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-
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
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-
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.
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,
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
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,
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
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
ROBIN NEST STRATTON-PORTER
"/ will trust in the covert of tliy wings."
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
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.
*/ -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
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
"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
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-
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
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
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,
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
"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
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 heron are most beautiful in a green setting.
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 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\ :
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>'
.1 nest fid of young "Doctors."
BIRDS OF "ABOMIXATIOX" 177
"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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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 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
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
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.
*O, that I had wings like a dove!
For then I would fly away and be at rest"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
' 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."
"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
"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
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
'Doth the eagle mount up at thy command,
And make her nest on high?
She dwelleth on the rock, and hath her lodging
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."
"Thy youth Is renewed like the eagle's"
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
"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
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
"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
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-
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
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
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
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
" 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
They shall mount up with wings as eagles ;
They shall run and not be weary ;
They shall walk and not faint."
'Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house,
Even Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King
and my God."
"IVfl, tlie sparrow hath found her an house."
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.
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-
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.
"/ icill even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in
The beasts of the field shall honor me, the dragons and
the ostriches. 1 " ISAIAH.
'What time he lifteth himself abroad
He scorneth the horse and his rider."
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
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
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
'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
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
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
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,
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
"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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Even as a hen gathereth her own brood under her
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
Even as a hen gathereth her chickens under
And ye would not."
'Doth the hawk soar by thy wisdom?
And stretch her wings toward the south?"
A hawk could sail the length of the Holy Land many
times in a day.
"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
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-
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
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-
"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
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
QUAIL AND PARTRIDGE
'They asked, and he brought quails,
And satisfied them with the bread of heaven."
l As the decoy partridge in a cage,
So is the heart of a proud man"
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."
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
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
"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-
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
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.
'/ will make it a possession for the bittern,
and pools of water" ISAIAH.
"A possession for 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
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
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
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
To Sir Walter Scott these notes seemed drumlike, for
it was he who coupled the bittern with the lark when he
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."
'As the swallow in her flying,
So the curse that is causeless light eth not."
Yea, the swallow hath found a nest for herself."
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
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;
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-
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
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
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.
"Once in three years came the navy of Thar-
shish, bringing gold, and silver, and ivory, and
apes, and peacocks. 9 ' 1 KINGS.
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-
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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-
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.
Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her
appointed times. " JEREMIAH.
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-
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
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
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
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
"Consider the raven, that they sow not, neither
reap: Which have no store-chamber nor barn;
and God feedeth them." JESUS.
GOD FEEDETH THEM
"TT7*o prorideth for the raven his food?"
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
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.
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-
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
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
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
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
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.
am like a pelican of the wilderness. 9 '' DAVID.
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
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
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
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.
"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.
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
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
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
( 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.
"Like a crane so did I chatter." ISAIAH.
CRESTED AFRICAN CRANE
'The crane observe the time of their coming."
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
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
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.
**/ am become as an owl of the waste place." DAVID.
"There shall the great owl make her nest."
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.
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
"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
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
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?