Birds of the Bible – Name Study – Heron

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Watching young nearby by Lee at Viera Wetlands

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Watching young nearby by Lee at Viera Wetlands

Let’s look into a name study for another Bird of the Bible – this time the Heron. Our fishing Green Heron directed my thinking towards the Heron. So, let’s see what we can find out about how they are mentioned in Scripture.

The Heron and their kind are mentioned in Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the list of “Unclean Birds” or the “Do not eat” list.

And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:19 KJV)

And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. (Deuteronomy 14:18 KJV)

Those are the only two references to Herons in the King James Version. But how do other versions translate this bird? That is what these name study articles do. Dig around in the Word. I use e-Sword’ s compare mode to see the different versions.

Brenton, as does the APB, DRB, ISV, and NET  has the Heron in Psalms:

There the sparrows will build their nests; and the house of the heron takes the lead among them. Psalms 104:17 Brenton)

The Bishops and CJB only use Heron in Deuteronomy, but not Leviticus.

The Phillips does not even use the word “Heron.”

Here is the Hebrew word used in these verses:

From H599; an unclean bird, perhaps the parrot (from its irascibility): – heron.


The DRB also uses Heron in Job:

The wing of the ostrich is like the wings of the heron, and of the hawk. (Job 39:13 DRB)

The GW shows Heron in these verses:

“It will become the possession of herons. It will become pools of water. I’ll sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the LORD of Armies. (Isaiah 14:23 GW)

Pelicans and herons will take possession of the land. Owls and crows will live there. He will stretch the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of destruction over it. (Isaiah 34:11 GW)

Flocks will lie down in it along with animals of every kind. Even pelicans and herons will nest on top of its columns. Listen! A bird will sing in a window. The doorway will be in ruins, because the LORD will expose the cedar beams. (Zephaniah 2:14 GW)

Isaiah 14:23 uses H7090 which is:

קפּד קפּוד
qippôd qippôd
kip-pode’, kip-pode’
From H7088; a species of bird, perhaps the bittern (from its contracted form): – bittern.

Isaiah 34:11 GW and Zephaniah 2:14 GW both use the same H7090. The word is translated as “Bittern” in the KJV for all three verses. The Ardeidae- Herons, Bitterns Family consists of Heron, Egrets and Bitterns so, there doesn’t seem to be a problem there, especially since the first two verses said, “heron after her kind.” They are related.

The DRB’s (1899 Douay-Rheims Bible) translation, to me, does not seem to match the rest of the other translations.

Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius) by Lee at LPZoo

Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius) by Lee at LPZoo


The herons are long-legged freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae, with 72 recognised species (some are called “egrets” or “bitterns” instead of “heron”). Within Ardeidae, all members of the genera Botaurus and Ixobrychus are referred to as “bitterns”, and — including the Zigzag Heron or Zigzag Bittern — are a monophyletic group within the Ardeidae. However, egrets are not a biologically distinct group from the herons, and tend to be named differently because they are mainly white and/or have decorative plumes. Although egrets have the same build as herons, they tend to be smaller.

The classification of the individual heron/egret species is fraught with difficulty, and there is still no clear consensus about the correct placement of many species into either of the two major genera, Ardea and Egretta. One species formerly considered to constitute a separate monotypic family Cochlearidae, the Boat-billed Heron, is now regarded as a member of the Ardeidae.

Although herons resemble birds in some other families, such as the storks, ibises, spoonbills and cranes, they differ from these in flying with their necks retracted, not outstretched. They are also one of the bird groups that have powder down. Some members of this group nest colonially in trees, while others, notably the bitterns, use reedbeds.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) by W Kwong

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) by W Kwong

The herons are a widespread family, they exist on all continents except Antarctica, and are present in most habitats except the coldest extremes of the Arctic, extremely high mountains and the driest deserts. Almost all species are associated with water, they are essentially non-swimming waterbirds that feed on the margins of lakes, rivers, swamps, ponds and the sea. They are predominately found in lowland areas, although some species live in alpine areas, and the majority of species occur in the tropics.

The herons are a highly mobile family, with most species being at least partially migratory. Birds are particularly inclined to disperse widely after breeding but before the annual migration where the species is colonial, searching out new feeding areas and reducing the pressures on feeding grounds near the colony. The migration typically occurs at night, usually as individuals or in small groups.

The herons and bitterns are carnivorous. The members of this family are mostly associated with wetlands and water, and feed on a variety of live aquatic prey. The diet includes a wide variety of aquatic animals, including fish, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic insects. Individual species may be generalists or specialise in certain prey types, like the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, which specialises in crustaceans, particularly crabs. Many species will also opportunistically take larger prey, including birds and bird eggs, rodents, and more rarely carrion. Even more rarely there have been reports of herons eating acorns, peas and grains, but most vegetable matter consumed is accidental.

The most common hunting technique is for the bird to sit motionless on the edge of or standing in shallow water and wait until prey comes within range. (Birds of the Bible – Patient Herons) Birds may either do this from an upright posture, giving them a wider field of view for seeing prey, or from a crouched position, which is more cryptic and means the bill is closer to the prey when it is located. Having seen prey the head is moved from side to side, so that the heron can calculate the position of the prey in the water and compensate for refraction, and then the bill is used to spear the prey.

Reddish Egret scarring up breakfast

Reddish Egret scarring up breakfast

In addition to sitting and waiting, herons may feed more actively. They may walk slowly, at around or less than 60 paces a minute, snatching prey when it is observed. Other active feeding behaviours include foot stirring and probing, where the feet are used to flush out hidden prey. The wings may be used to frighten prey (or possibly attract it to shade) or to reduce glare; the most extreme example of this is exhibited by the Black Heron, which forms a full canopy with its wings over its body.

Some species of heron, such as the Little Egret and Grey Heron, have been documented using bait in order to lure prey to within striking distance. Herons may use items already in place, or actively add items to the water in order to attract fish. Items used may be man-made, such as bread; alternatively Striated Herons in the Amazon have been watched repeatedly dropping seeds, insects, flowers and leaves into the water to catch fish. (Green Heron Fishing With Bread)

(Heron information from Wikipedia with editing)

Names of Birds Study

Birds of the Bible – Herons


6 thoughts on “Birds of the Bible – Name Study – Heron

  1. Pingback: Reddish egrets, what do they eat? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Wildlife Blog

  3. Pingback: Tunisian herons nesting, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Many waterbirds in Dutch Biesbosch | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Please leave a Comment. They are encouraging.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s