The Ten: Birds of the Bible

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1 Samuel 26:20 talks about the king of Israel hunting a partridge in the mountains. This is probably the sand partridge, the most common partridge in the Middle East.


The peacock was, and still is, praised for its fine plumage. It was undoubtedly an ornamental bird 3000 years ago when it is mentioned in Scripture (1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:21) like it is today.


Eagles are one of the most mentioned birds in Scripture, often used to symbolise strength and the character of God. In Psalm 103:5 God says He will renew our youth “like the eagles” and Isaiah 40:31 famously echoes this statement, saying He will renew our strength.


Ostriches were likely more common in Bible times than they are today. As mentioned in Job 39:13-18, the ostrich was famous for laying its eggs and going off without incubating them, letting the sun incubate them instead.


Isaiah 14:23 mentions bitterns—an aquatic bird similar to storks, ibises and cormorants—that will inhabit the desolate marshy areas. Zephaniah 2:14 also mentions them, saying that they will roost on the ruins of Babylon.

Turtledoves and pigeons

These birds are referred to 66 times in the Old Testament and 11 times in the New Testament. In Matthew 3:16, the Holy Spirit descends “like a dove” onto Jesus.


Jesus talks about sparrows in Matthew 10:29-31 to illustrate how valuable and loved God’s children are, and how no detail goes unnoticed by our Creator.


In the Gospels, a rooster crowing three times signified Peter’s betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 26:47). Jesus also likens Himself to a mother hen who gathers chicks under her wings in Matthew 23:37.


Some translations use the word “ravens” in Jesus’ sermon on the mount (Luke 12:24; Matthew 6:26,27), describing how they “neither sow nor reap”. In Genesis, Noah sends out a raven to check for any vegetation on the earth (Genesis 8:7), and it is ravens who bring food to Elijah during the great drought (1 Kings 17:6).

Owls, Vultures, Bats (the list goes on)

Leviticus 11 features the most comprehensive list of birds in the Bible, differentiated as clean or unclean foods. Verse 13 mentions vultures, kites, ravens, six kinds of owl, gulls, hawks, cormorants, storks, herons and even bats! The strange inclusion of the bat is likely because the Israelites didn’t use our modern zoological classifications and identified it as a bird. After all, it flies, does it not?

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