Scripture Alphabet of Animals: The Night-Hawk

Common Nighthawk by Neal Addy

Common Nighthawk by Neal Addy

Scripture Alphabet of Animals: The Night-Hawk

By Harriet N. Cook (1814-1843)
I believe this is the only animal of any kind mentioned in the Bible, the name of which begins with N. It is named in the 11th chapter of Leviticus, among other birds, such as the owl, the cuckoo and the raven, which the children of Israel were not allowed to eat.

And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind, (Leviticus 11:16 KJV)

Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus) by ©Judd Paterson

Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus) by ©Judd Paterson

It is somewhat like the owl in its shape, and in its large, full, round eyes. It flies at evening, and hides itself during the day from the bright light of the sun. It likes to live in lonely, dark woods, and when it comes out at twilight to get the insects that it lives upon, you could hardly hear the sound of its wings, it flies so very gently. It has a very wide, gaping mouth, which helps it to seize upon moths and flies, and its mouth is bordered with a row of stiff bristles, so that the insects may not escape again after they have been caught.

The night-hawk belongs to the same family with the whip-poor-will; and, like that bird, it places its eggs on the ground in the shade of some thicket, with only a layer of withered leaves under them instead of making a nest.

(Blog formatted by Lee)


Harriet Newell Cook -Scripture Alphabet of Animals

Birds of the Bible

Nighthawks and Nightjars

Caprimulgidae Family – Nightjars

Nave’s Topical Bible – Night hawk


Birds Are Wonderful: M, N, and O !

BIRDS  ARE  WONDERFUL  . . .  M,  N,  and  O !

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, . . . your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”   (Matthew 6:25-26)

For welcoming in the year of our Lord 2020,  below follows the fifth advance installment of alphabet-illustrating birds of the world, as part of this new series (“Birds Are Wonderful  —  and Some Are a Little Weird*).  The letter M is illustrated by Magpies, Magnificent Frigatebird, and Motmots.  The letter N  illustrated by Nightingale, Needle-billed Hermit, and Nighthawk (also called “Nightjar”).  The letter O illustrated by Osprey, Oriental Stork, and Oystercatcher.

“M” BIRDS:   Magpies, Magnificent Frigatebird, and Motmots.


“N” BIRDS:  Nightingale, Needle-billed Hermit, and Nighthawk.


“O” BIRDS:  Osprey, Oriental Stork, and Oystercatcher.


Birds are truly wonderful — and some, like the “egg-dumping” Oystercatcher, are a little bit odd, if not also weird!  (Stay tuned for more, D.v.)

* Quoting from “Birds Are Wonderful, and Some Are a Little Weird”, (c) AD2019 James J. S. Johnson   [used here by permission].



Birds of the Bible – Nighthawk II

Last week after I published Nighthawk I, I started looking for more photos and videos to supplement the article. I kept running into other usages of the word “nighthawk.” So, here is more on the topic.

In the two references: Lev 11:16, Deu 14:15 See Nighthawk the word nighthawk is from “H8464 – תּחמס
tachmâs (takh-mawce’) is from H2554; a species of unclean bird (from its violence), perhaps an owl: – night hawk.”

Tachmas cannot be identified with any certainty. Here is how it is interpreted:

Great Horned Owl by Phil Kwong Galleries

Great Horned Owl by Phil Kwong Galleries

night-hawk – ASV, BBE, JPS, YLT
nighthawk – ESV, GW, MSG, Webster
night hawk – KJV, RV
nighthauke – KJV 1611
nyght Crowe – Bishops
night crowe – Geneva
female ostrich and the male ostrich – Darby
short-eared owl – HCSB, NKJV
great owl – LITV, MKJV
screech owl – WEB, NRSV, NIV

Needless to say, this “has caused great controversies among commentators. Some scholars of the Hebrew language have thought that the male ostrich was signified by tachmas, the word bath-haya’anah being supposed by them to signify the female ostrich. It is hardly probable, however, that the sacred writer should have mentioned separately the sexes of the same species, and we must therefore look for some other interpretation.

Going to the opposite extreme of size, some scholars have translated tachmas as Swallow. This again is not a very probable rendering, as the swallow would be too small a bird to be specially named in the prohibitory list. ‘I’he balance of probability seems, to lie between two interpretations – namely, that which considers the word tachmas to signify the Night-hawk, and that which translates it as Owl. For both of these interpretations much is to be said, and it cannot be denied that of the two the latter is perhaps preferable. If so, the White or Barn Owl is probably the particular species to which reference is made.

However, many commentators think that the Night-hawk or Nightjar is the bird which is signified by the word tachmas, and as owls seem to have been signified by alternative words, the rendering of the Authorized Version seems an acceptable translation. Moreover, the Jewish Bible follows the same translation, and renders tachmas as Night-hawk, but affixes the mark of doubt. ” (From The Nightjar or Night Hawk in the Bible on Wonder of Birds website)

I said all of that to say, I don’t know for any certainty which bird it is. Therefore, I am adding pictures of the other birds mentioned beside the ones I posted last week. Only the Lord know for certain which birds were indicated. I’ll leave it at that.

Birds of the Bible – Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

The Night Hawk is part of the Caprimulgidae – Nightjars family. Here in North America, the Lesser, Common, and Antillean Nighthawks, are joined by the Common Pauraque, Common Poorwill, Chuck-Will’s Widow, and the Whip-Poor-Will to round out the family. They have long wings, short legs, and very small bills with a large mouth. All of these are late evening, early morning, and night hunters of insects. God created them with coloration that helps them blend in with the tree or leaves around them and most perch horizontal to the limbs instead of across them like most birds. This also helps hide them in the daytime. Even though they have the name “Hawk”, they do not resemble what most would think of hawks. The term is more of the fact of ‘hawking or catching” insects while in flight. Most fly low over the ground in search the moths and large flying insects. They range from 7 to 13 inches long with wingspans from 11 to 24 inches.

All Nighthawks listed in the New World are the Band-tailed Nighthawk, Plain-tailed Nighthawk, Nacunda Nighthawk, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Antillean Nighthawk, Lesser Nighthawk, Common Nighthawk, Least Nighthawk, Sand-colored Nighthawk

UPDATE: AUG 30, 2008: Upon further investigation, the night hawk mentioned in the verses is most likely a type of owl that feeds at night. I will make a new article soon. Enjoy this anyway. (Lee)

They are again in our list of birds that are “unclean.” Both verses are identical in the KJV.

And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after his kind, (Lev 11:16)
And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after his kind, (Deu 14:15)

See Nighthawks for more information.

Grey Nightjar