Birds of the Bible – Bitterns in Zephaniah

Cinnamon Bittern by Phil Kwong in Hong Kong

Cinnamon Bittern by Phil Kwong in Hong Kong

And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all 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 thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work. (Zephaniah 2:14 KJV)

This verse in Zephaniah is a bit confusing because some of the characteristics mentioned are not in line with a bittern’s normal behavior. So, let’s look into this verse a little deeper.

Pulling up my e-Sword program, I am heading to the “Compare” mode. Wow! This is going to be interesting. What a variation of birds and animals listed for that verse.

  • ACV, ASV, BBE, RV, Disciple’s, WEB – pelican and the porcupine
  • ABP, Brenton – chameleons; and hedgehogs
  • AKJV, KJV, IAV, JUB, UKJV, Webster – cormorant and the bittern
  • AMP, NAS77, NASB, YLT – pelican and the hedgehog
  • Bishops, Geneva – pellicanes and owles
  • CEV – all kinds of desert owls
  • CJB –  jackdaws and owls
  • Darby, ECB, HRB, LITV, JPS, MKJV, NKJV  – pelican and the bittern
  • DRB – bittern and the urchin
  • ERV – Owls and crows
  • ESV – owl and the hedgehog
  • GNB, MSG, NET – Owls
  • GW – pelicans and herons
  • HCSB, ISV, NIV, NRSV – desert owl and the screech owl
  • KJ2000 – vulture and the hedgehog
  • TRC – pelicans and storks

See what my mean?

Here are the Strong’s Definitions for those two word in order of occurance.

H6893
קאת
qâ’ath
kaw-ath’
From H6958; probably the pelican (from vomiting): – cormorant.

H7090
קפּד קפּוד
qippôd qippôd
kip-pode’, kip-pode’
From H7088; a species of bird, perhaps the bittern (from its contracted form): – bittern.

At least 14 versions use the “bittern” as one of the two birds. Now to look further in the verse, it mentions that they are lodged in the upper parts with their voice singing in the windows. That is where I am curious about it being a bittern. Have you heard a bittern “sing”? Here a few of their “songs” from xeno-canto.

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) ©WikiC

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) ©WikiC

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Dans Pix

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Dans Pix

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)

Pinnated Bittern (Botaurus pinnatus) by Daves BirdingPix ©WikiC

Pinnated Bittern (Botaurus pinnatus) by Daves BirdingPix ©WikiC

Pinnated Bittern (Botaurus pinnatus)

Stripe-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus involucris) ©Drawing WikiC

Stripe-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus involucris) ©Drawing WikiC

Stripe-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus involucris)

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)  by Bob-Nan

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) by Bob-Nan

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)

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I am not as concerned as to which birds were there as much as if you read the context, you realize that the birds and critters are there because the places are deserted. Like a “ghost town” you see in the movies, with creatures occupying the windows and rafters. Why? Because of the Lord’s judgement on the people. Verses 10-13 explain this:

This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts. The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword. And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. (Zephaniah 2:10-13 KJV)

Maybe we should heed the warnings and examples given throughout Scripture. We have a loving God and Lord who created everything and cares about it, but He is also a God of Judgment. John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But if you continue reading, you see that there is also judgment.

(17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
(18) He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
(19) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
(20) For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
(21) But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
John 3:17-21 KJV

I trust you know the Lord as your personal Savior.

See:

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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:

H601
אנפה
‘ănâphâh
an-aw-faw’
From H599; an unclean bird, perhaps the parrot (from its irascibility): – heron.

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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:

H7090
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

Herons:

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

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – American Bittern

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Ian Montgomery

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Ian Montgomery

Ian’s Bird of the Week – American Bittern ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9/14/2010

Lightning, they say, doesn’t strike the same place twice. Luck, in bird photography, is rather similar: a missed opportunity usually remains just that. High on my list of American targets was the American Bittern, a cryptic and elusive bird of inaccessible reed beds that had successfully eluded me since I first did some serious birding in the USA exactly forty years ago. Imagine my delight and disappointment when I finally flushed one from reeds on the Feather River at Lake Almanor in NE California last Sunday but wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of it as if flew off. I found it in the viewfinder okay, but the autofocus didn’t as often happens when it gets distracted by a complex background.

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Ian Montgomery

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Ian Montgomery

Yesterday, two days later, at Sierra Valley in the Sierra Nevada (‘Snowy Mountains’) I saw a large bird flying towards and past me across more reeds and decided to photograph it even before I realized that it was another Bittern, see the first photo. Shortly later, another more distant one flew past and then I found a couple more lurking in the dwindling area of wetland remaining at the end of a dry summer. Eventually, I startled one in a ditch beside the road which froze in indecision (if in doubt, freeze, is a Bittern maxim) frustratingly close but on the other side of an unpicturesque barbed wire fence.

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Ian Montgomery

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Ian Montgomery

Then started a waiting game with an endlessly patient opponent that I was bound to loose. Eventually, I moved along the road away from it in the hope that it would come through the fence to regain the sanctuary of the ditch. In time, it did just that and quite stealthily, second photo. Bitterns are bizarre birds in appearance and behaviour, with extraordinarily effective camouflage and very beautiful plumage. When it had entered a small patch of reeds not much bigger than itself, it vanished, and search as I could with binoculars from a short distant, I never saw it again.

To do the plumage justice, I’ve included cropped enlargements of a couple of photos taken when the bird was behind the barbed wire. The fourth photo shows the gorgeous long neck feathers that drape over the breast and the exquisitely patterned feathers of the wing coverts.

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Ian Montgomery

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) by Ian Montgomery

Worldwide, there are four closely-related species of large Bitterns, one in North America, one in South America, one in Eurasia and Africa and one in Australasia. All have declined in population, but only the Australasian one is classed as endangered. All live in reed beds, all are mainly nocturnal, skulkers and easier to hear than see, particularly in the breeding season when they emit far-carrying booming sounds: presumably, they find each other easier to hear than see.

Links including recent additions:
Australiasian Bittern
Wrentit
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-shouldered Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Black-footed Albatross

On an almost totally unrelated subject, Birds Australian North Queensland has had a request from an Australian, Carolyne Hepi, living in a remote area of Papua New Guinea to support the local school by buying their 2011 Birds of Papua calendar, price 20 Australian Dollars. I think it is a great idea. Her email is carolyne_jon@hotmail.com and, if you want more information, I’ll make a copy of the pdf she sent us (size 3.8MB) available on the Birdway website.

Best wishes,
Iab

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Thanks, Ian, for another great birdwatching adventure for us to read about. Saw an American Bittern in Texas in early 2000 and they are hard to capture in binoculars let alone get a decent photo of them. Great job!

Bitterns are in the Ardeidae- Herons, Bitterns Family which has 14 species world-wide. Also check out Ian’s Ardeidae family photos. The Bitterns are part of the Pelicaniformes Order and are mentioned as a Bird of the Bible.

I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom(broom) of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts. (Isa 14:23)


Family#26 – Ardeidae
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First Family Page Completed – Ardeidae

Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana) by Ian

Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana) by Ian

I just completed the first Birds of the World Family page. Well, at least as far as I can find photos for it. I now only have 223 more family pages to go.

Check it out at Family – Ardeidae It is part of the PELECANIFORMES Order. At least according to the latest IOC 2.1 version. I hope you enjoy the photos of the different Bitterns, Egrets and Herons.

Update: 08/09/09

Finished the Family – Struthionidae (Ostriches) page today. It is in the Order – STRUTHIONIFORMES Now at 2 down and 222 to go. Plus 37 partial ones – no photos yet.

Updated: 08/13/09

I finished all 229 (I found some birds that had flown from my original lists)  Bird Family pages as far as the list of each species within the families. Now I am going to make some  indexes to help find the different birds in either taxonomic or alphabetical order. Then I will be adding various photos to each family.

Birds of the Bible – Bitterns II

I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 14:23 KJV)

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) by Ian

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) by Ian

I introduced the Bittern in the first Birds of the Bible – Bittern and now I want to add some more information about them. The Bitterns belong to the Order called Pelecaniformes which includes Ibises, Spoonbills, Herons, Bitterns, Frigatebirds, Hamerkop, Shoebills, Pelicans, Gannets, Boobies, Cormorants, Anhingas, and Darters. All of these birds like to hang out around watery places and are related. Within the Pelecaniformes order, there are different families. The Bittern is in the Ardeidae family. Below is a list of the Bitterns within this family.

Belonging to the Ardeidae family, they also have the usual long legs, long necks, and are wading birds. They are associated with water, especially in breeding season. Whereas the herons and egret stand out in the open, the bitterns like to conceal themselves in cattail and sedge marshes, bulrushes, etc. They also have shorter legs and a heavier body. Their “cryptic plumage and upright poses helps to merge with the brown upright reeds…” I’ve had the privilege to see a few of them, and they are hard to find. God has provided them with this protection and it helps them in finding their food. Fish is their favorite food, but they will also consume frogs, small snakes, and other things that pass by.

Here in North America, we only have the American and Least Bitterns. I sometimes confuse them with the smaller herons, like a Green Heron. You can tell they are in the same family (ardeidae).

Here is the sounds of an American Bittern and a Least Bittern from Stokes Bird Songs

But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. (Isaiah 34:11)


CLASS – AVES, Order –PELECANIFORMES, Family – ArdeidaeHerons, Bitterns

Australian Little Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius) by Ian

Australian Little Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius) by Ian

Herons, Bitterns – Ardeidae Family
Zonerodius
Forest Bittern (Zonerodius heliosylus)
Botaurus
Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) – Video
Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) by Ian
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) – Video – Video2
Pinnated Bittern (Botaurus pinnatus) by Daves BirdingPix  – Video
Ixobrychus
Stripe-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus involucris)
Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) by Jim Fenton – Video
Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) by Ian
Black-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius)
New Zealand Bittern (Ixobrychus novaezelandiae †)
Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) by Ray Barlow – Video
Von Schrenck’s Bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)
Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus) by Phil Kwong – Video
Dwarf Bittern (Ixobrychus sturmii)
Dupetor
Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis) by Nikhil Devasar – Video

Different Family
Sunbittern – Eurypygidae Family
Eurypyga
Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) – Video – Video2

“Recent DNA evidence suggests that this family may in fact belong to the Pelecaniformes.5, From Wikipedia  They used to be in the Ciconiformes family, where most older guide books still have them. My list are from the IOC’s World Lists, 3.1 version.


Family#26 – Ardeidae

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Herons Egrets Bitterns

Beautiful birds that are fun and easy to watch, these familiar waders are great for beginning birdwatchers.

Back to the Peterson Field Guide Video Series

“Herons Egrets Bitterns” Video is from petersonfieldguides at YouTube

See Also:

Bitterns
Birds of the Bible – Heron
Birds of the Bible – Bittern


CLASS – AVES, Order –PELECANIFORMES, Family – Ardeidae – Herons, Bitterns

Birds of the Bible – Bittern


CLASS – AVES, Order –PELECANIFORMES, Family – Ardeidae – Herons, Bitterns


In North America we have theAmerican (23” with a 42-50” wingspan) and Least Bittern (11-14” with a 16-18” wingspan). Both dwell in marsh or wetland habitats and are very difficult to find. God has designed them with plumage and behavior (standing very still with the head pointing up) that helps camouflage them. They eat frogs, small fish, snakes and bugs, etc.
The bittern is an interesting find in the Bible.

I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts. (Isa 14:23)

Again judgment is being given and the names of the new inhabitants are given. Only the birds will dwell there.

But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. (Isa 34:11)
Ninevah will be barren and the bittern and pelican will be singing from the vacant windows. The herds shall lie down in her midst, Every beast of the nation. Both the pelican and the bittern Shall lodge on the capitals of her pillars; Their voice shall sing in the windows; Desolation shall be at the threshold; For He will lay bare the cedar work. (Zep 2:14)

American Bittern Picture with permission from Gramps (Les)
A YouTube of a Bittern. I do not know the language, but it shows how the Bittern is camouflaged so well.

Family#26 – Ardeidae

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