Continuing in Leviticus 11, we come to the bird category next.
But the Bible gives no rule for distinguishing between the clean
and unclean as it did in the two previous categories. Deuteronomy
14 is also silent in this regard. Furthermore, no clean birds are
listed! All that the Bible gives us in these chapters are the
names of about 24 unclean birds! But other scriptures reveal that
the PIGEON and DOVE are both clean since they were used for
sacrificing Lev. 1:14-17; Luke 2:24), and the QUAIL is clean
since God provided it for food in Numbers 11:31-32, and the
SPARROW is clean since it sold for food and Christ recognized
this use (Luke 12:6), so it's possible to determine a rule based
on these four birds, comparing them with the ones listed as
The result is six characteristics that all clean birds have.
FIRST, they aren't birds of prey. SECOND, they catch food thrown
to them in the air, but bring it to the ground, where they divide
it with their beaks before consuming it, if this is possible. But
unclean birds devour it in the air or press it with one foot to
the ground and tear it with their bills. THIRD, they must have an
elongated middle front toe and a hind toe. FOURTH, they spread
their toes so that the hind toe is on one side of their perch,
and the three front toes are on the other. FIFTH, they must have
craws or crops. SIXTH, they must have a gizzard with a double
lining which can easily be separated (Jewish Encyclopedia, vol.
6, p.111). One or more of these characteristics is lacking in all
The Mishnah (the collection of Jewish oral interpretations of
scripture which were compiled about 200 A.D.) gives a more
concise rule. It states that, "a bird that seizes food in its
claws is unclean; one which has an extra talon, a craw, and the
skin of whose stomach can be pealed, is clean" (Hul. 3:6). The
Mishnah mentions that any one of these characteristics makes the
bird clean. In other words, a bird doesn't have to possess them
all to be edible (Hul. 61b-62a).
It is extremely interesting that clean birds have, in essence,
THREE STOMACHS including the crop and the gizzard and another
third section of stomach between the two, reminding a person of
clean ruminating beasts which all have four stomachs! These extra
digestive organs in clean birds and beasts no doubt prevent
poisons from being assimilated into the meat since the bird gets
all its nutritional needs from harmless plants. To take the
parallel further, some of the leaf-eating birds have bacteria in
their intestines which break down cellulose (p.76, Bird Behavior,
by Robert Burton, copyright 1985). The "only essentially
leaf-eating birds are the SWANS, GEESE, GROUSE, some of the DUCKS
and the KAKAPO, PIGEONS, COOTS, GAMEBIRDS, and the OSTRICH and
its allies are mainly leaf eaters, but they supplement this diet
with fair quantities of other plant and animal food" (p.76,
ibid.) (Note that the only unclean birds in this list are the
KAKAPO and OSTRICH.) Remember that the ruminating beasts all used
bacteria in their digestion of plants too! One more point of
comparison is found in PIGEONS and DOVES, which use their crop to
store, or partly digest, food taken too quickly for the stomach
to handle. During breeding season, the crop produces "milk" from
seeds eaten which is REGURGITATED for the young. This is one form
The Encyclopedia Judaica also reveals certain characteristics
which are unique to unclean birds. Unclean birds are birds of
prey (carnivorous) or birds that feed on carrion (dead and
decaying flesh, including FAT and BLOOD) like VULTURES or
nocturnal birds of prey which have two toes pointing forward and
two backward like the OWL, or Waterfowl like the SEAGULL, STORK,
BITTERN, HERON, CRANE and GULL or birds with hooked beaks and
hooked talons like the HAWK, EAGLE, KITE, BUZZARD, KESTREL,
But some water fowl are clean, including DUCKS, GEESE, TEAL and,
yes, the SWAN! All these birds comply with the requirements for
clean birds. The Hebrew word translated "SWAN" should be rendered
"IBIS," or "STORK," or "WATER HEN. was mentioned above, swans are
GENERALLY speaking, we could say that clean birds are
predominantly vegetarian. (FINCHES, WEAVERS, SPARROWS, CROWS,
TITMOUSES, JAYS, NUTHATCHES, NUTCRACKERS, CROSSBILLS, UELEAS,
CARDINALS and PARROTS are the birds that eat nuts and seeds.
Birds that eat fruit and nectar are BLACKBIRDS, ROBINS, THRUSHES,
ORIOLES, WAXWINGS, WARBLERS, GROUSE, FINCHES, SHOREBIRDS, SILKY
FLYCATCHERS, GULLS, TITMICE, SUNBIRDS, HUMMINGBIRDS,
HONEYCREEPERS, BELLBIRDS, BARBETS, TOURACOS, MOUSEBIRDS, TROGONS,
OILBIRDS, TOUCANS, FRUIT PIGEONS, CACI UES, ARACARIS, HORNBILLS,
COTINGAS, MANAKINS, OROPEN LAS, CASSOWARIES and PARROTS.....
Unclean birds are carnivorous and/or scavengers. This, of course,
means that clean birds have less disease and fewer parasites
(generally speaking - Keith Hunt).
OWLS eat rats, mice and other disease-carrying rodents almost
exclusively! The EAGLE will eat "fish and refuse that is thrown
up on the shore" and one kind of EAGLE is "able to take some
birds as they fly, but a large part of its sustenance is the
flesh of animals that die a natural death" (vol. 20, p.397 & vol.
8, p.790, Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.). VAMPIRE BATS drink
BLOOD and bats are vectors of the disease Rabies*! Bat salivary
gland fever* can also infect man via bites and infection.
Starting in Leviticus 11:13, we read, "And these are they which
ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be
eaten, they are an abomination: the EAGLE, and the OSSIFRAGE, and
the OSPREY, And the VULTURE (KITE), and the KITE (FALCON) after
its kind; Every RAVEN after its kind; And the OWL (OSTRICH), and
the NIGHT HAWK, and the CUCKOW (SEA GULL), and the HAWK after its
kind, And the LITTLE (WHITE) OWL, and the CORMORANT, and the
GREAT (HORNED) OWL, And the "SWAN" (IBIS, STORK, or WATER HEN),
and the PELICAN, and the GIER (CARRION) EAGLE, and the STORK, the
HERON after its kind, and the LAPWING (HOOPOE), and the BAT"
(vv.13-19). Deuteronomy 14:13,16 and 17 mentions some additional
birds: "And the GLEDE (BUZZARD) ... The LITTLE (SCREECH) OWL, and
the GREAT OWL ... and the GIER EAGLE (CARRION VULTURE)." Other
examples are the BITTERN, CRANE, CROW, KESTREL, PARROT,
ROADRUNNER, SWIFT and WOODPECKER.
The list of clean birds and fowl must be the following:
BLACKBIRD, BRAMBLING, BALDHEADED IBIS, CHAFFINCH, CHICKEN, CORN
BUNTING, DOVE, DUCK, GOOSE, GROUSE, GARDEN WARBLER, GREENFINCH,
GOLDEN PLOVER, GARGANAY, GUINEA FOWL, HEN, ITALIAN SPARROW,
MEADOW PIPIT, ORTOLAN BUNTING, PHEASANT, PEA000K, PARTRIDGE,
PIGEON, UAIL, REDSTART, ROCK BUNTING, ROBIN, ROOSTER, SPARROW,
SONGBIRDS (including such beautiful singers as the thrushes,
wrens, honeyeaters, cardinals, larks, mockingbirds, canaries,
nightingales, butcherbirds, blackbirds and warblers), SONG
THRUSH, SKY LARK, SNIPE, SWAN, TURTLE DOVE, TURKEY, WOOD COCK,
WHEATEAR, WHITE WAGTAIL, YELLOWHAMMER, etcetera.
Incidentally, birds must have their blood drained in accordance
with Leviticus 17:13 which says, "And whatsoever man there is ...
who hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten, he
shall even pour out the BLOOD thereof; and cover it with dust."
In order to obey this scripture, a hunter must use harmless nets
and snares to catch his prey, rather than birdshot which causes
the BLOOD to coagulate in the flesh.
Written 1987 (all capital words were Hemeway's)