Birds of the Bible – Birds of Prey Introduction

The following is from Wikipedia’s article on “Bird of Prey” and has good information to precede thoughts on the Birds of Prey mentioned in the Bible. (Their quotes, my links)

Tawny Eagle by Africaddict

Tawny Eagle by Africaddict

“Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food primarily on the wing, using their keen senses, especially vision. They are defined as birds that primarily hunt vertebrates, including other birds. Their talons and beaks tend to be relatively large, powerful and adapted for tearing and/or piercing flesh. In most cases, the females are considerably larger than the males. The term “raptor” is derived from the Latin word “rapere” (meaning to seize or take by force) and may refer informally to all birds of prey, or specifically to the diurnal group. Because of their overall large size and predatory lifestyle, they face distinct conservation concerns.

Formal Classification

The diurnal birds of prey are formally classified into five families (traditionally of the order Falconiformes, a classification currently[vague] in flux): [IOC has them mostly in the Accipitriformes Order-Lee]

* Accipitridae: hawks, eagles, buzzards, harriers, kites and Old World vultures
* Pandionidae: the Osprey (sometimes classified as subfamily Pandioninae of the previous family)
* Sagittariidae: the Secretary Bird
* Falconidae: falcons and caracaras
* Cathartidae: New World vultures including condors.

The nocturnal birds of prey – the owls – are classified separately as members of two extant families of the order Strigiformes:

* Strigidae: (typical owls)
* Tytonidae: (barn and bay owls).

Red-shouldered Hawk by Dan

The observation that otherwise unrelated bird groups may perform similar ecological roles and bear striking morphological similarities to one another is explained is because [they were created by the Lord and are all going to be called on to perform a similar task in the future. (See later)]

The common names for various birds of prey are based on structure but many of the traditional names do not reflect the evolutionary relationships between the groups.
Variations in shape and size

Birds of Prey - Raptorial Silhouettes ©Wikipedia

Birds of Prey – Raptorial Silhouettes ©Wikipedia

* Eagles tend to be large birds with long, broad wings and massive feet. Booted Eagles have legs and feet feathered to the toes and build very large stick nests.
* Ospreys, a single species found worldwide that specializes in catching fish, and builds large stick nests.
* Kites have long wings and relatively weak legs. They spend much of their time soaring. They will take live vertebrate prey but mostly feed on insects or even carrion.
* The true Hawks are medium-sized birds of prey that usually belong to the genus Accipiter (see below). They are mainly woodland birds that hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch. They usually have long tails for tight steering.
* Buzzards are medium-large raptors with robust bodies and broad wings, or, alternatively, any bird of the genus Buteo (also commonly known as “hawks” in North America).
* Harriers are large, slender hawk-like birds with long tails and long thin legs. Most use a combination of keen eyesight and hearing to hunt small vertebrates, gliding on their long broad wings and circling low over grasslands and marshes.
* Vultures are carrion-eating raptors of two distinct biological families, each occurring in only the Eastern Hemisphere (Accipitridae) or the Western (Cathartidae). Members of both groups have heads either partly or fully devoid of feathers.
* Falcons are small to medium-size birds of prey with long pointed wings. Unlike most other raptors, they belong to the Falconidae, rather than the Accipitridae. Many are particularly swift flyers. Instead of building their own nests, falcons appropriate old nests of other birds, but sometimes they lay their eggs on cliff ledges or in tree hollows. Caracaras are a distinct subgroup of the Falconidae unique to the New World, and most common in the Neotropics – their broad wings, naked faces and appetites of a generalist suggest some level of convergence with either the Buteos or the vulturine birds, or both.
* Owls are variable-sized, typically night-specialized hunting birds. They fly with extremely little audible turbulance due to special feather structure and have particularly acute hearing.”

Did you notice the list of the “birds of prey”? It is almost identical to the list of birds on the unclean lists of birds in Deuteronomy 14:11-18 and Leviticus 11:13-20. There are a few that are not Birds of Prey, but all the birds of prey are listed there either by name or implied by “their kind.”

Searching the Scriptures, these are called “bird(s) of prey” in 7 verses in the GW; 6 verses in the ESV, Darby, 5 verses in the NASV, NAS77; 4 verses in the JPS; 3 verses in the NKJV, MKJV, RV, ; none in the KJV, Webster, YLT. Why the differences. Let’s look at the 7 verses and compare how they translate the bird.

H5861 is used in most of the translations.


ayit – ah’-yit ; from H5860a; a hawk or other bird of prey: – bird,  fowl, ravenous (bird)

And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. (Genesis 15:11 ESV)

birds of prey – ASV,  Darby, ESV,  GW, JPS,  MKJV, ,  NAS77, NASB, RV
birds – CEV
fowls – KJV, Webster
vultures – GNB, NKJV
ravenous birds – YLT

That path no bird of prey knows, and the falcon’s eye has not seen it. (Job 28:7 ESV)

birds of prey – ASV, Darby, ESV, GW, JPS, NAS77, NASB, RV
bird – BBE, MKJV, NKJV
hawk – GNB, Webster
fowl – KJV
ravenous fowl – YLT
The second part of the verse about the falcon’s eye is translated falcon’s, hawk’s, vulture’s and kite’s eye.

Does your understanding make a bird of prey fly and spread its wings toward the south? (Job 39:26 GW)

bird of prey – GW
hawk(s) – ASV, BBE, CEV, Darby, ESV, GNB, JPS, KJV, MKJV, NKJV, NAS77, NASB, RV, Webster, YLT

They shall all of them be left to the birds of prey of the mountains and to the beasts of the earth. And the birds of prey will summer on them, and all the beasts of the earth will winter on them. (Isaiah 18:6 ESV)

ravenous birds of the mountains – ASV, RV
birds of the mountains -BBE, MKJV
fowls of the mountains – KJV, Webster
mountain buzzards – CEV
mountain birds of prey – Darby, NAS77, NASB, NKJV
birds of prey of(on) the mountains – ESV, GW
ravenous birds of the mountains – JPS
ravenous birds of the mountains – YLT
birds – GNB,

calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:11 ESV)

ravenous bird from the east – ASV, KJV, RV, Webster, YLT
bird of strong flight from the east – BBE
like a hawk swooping down – CEV, GNB
bird of prey from the east – Darby, ESV, GW, JPS, MKJV, NAS77, NASB, NKJV

Black Vultures at Saddle Creek 12-07-07 by Lee

Is my heritage unto me as a speckled bird of prey? are the birds of prey against her round about? go ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour. . (Jeremiah 12:9 ASV)
speckled bird of prey and birds of prey- ASV, Darby, JPS, NAS77, NASB, RV
speckled bird and birds – KJV, MKJV, Webster
speckled vulture and vultures – NKJV
speckled fowl and fowl – YLT
coloured bird and cruel birds – BBE
colorful bird of prey and birds of prey – GW
hawk and hawks – CEV
bird and hawks – GNB
hyena’s lair and birds of prey – ESV

You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. (Ezekiel 39:4 ESV)

ravenous birds of every sort -ASV, JPS, KJV, RV, Webster
ravenous fowl–a bird of every wing – YLT
cruel birds of every sort – BBE
birds – CEV, GNB
birds of prey of every wing – Darby
birds of prey of every sort – ESV, NKJV
birds of prey of every kind – MKJV
every bird of prey – GW
every kind of predatory bird – NAS77, NASB

This is the foundation or introduction to the Birds of Prey. Future articles will build on these verses. There is a lot of activity going on with each verse which needs more in-depth study. Look for more Birds of Prey articles in the future.

See also:

Birds of the Bible – Clean vs. Unclean

Deuteronomy 14:11-18 Visualized

Birds of the Bible – Speckled Birds

These are the Bible translations that I have loaded on my e-Sword Bible program (most are free).

ASV-American Standard Version , BBE-Bible in Basic English, CEV-Contemporary English Version, Darby-Darby Bible, EMTV, ESV-English Standard Version, GNB-Good News Translation, GW-GOD’S WORD, ISV-International Standard Version, JPS-Jewish Publication Society Old Testament, KJV-King James Version, MKJV-Modern King James Version, Murdock-James Murdock New Testament, NAS77 & NASB-New American Standard Bible Study Set(paid), NKJV-New King James Version(paid), RV-Revised Version, Webster-Webster Bible, WNT-Weymouth New Testament, YLT-Young’s Literal Translation,


2 thoughts on “Birds of the Bible – Birds of Prey Introduction

    • I checked your link and that will be fine. It would be nice if it were an active link like yours is here. Actually, I like your concept for your jewelry. Lord Bless.


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