Birds of Abomination
Each of these birds is treated in order in this work. There are two reasons why Moses pronounced them an abomination for food. Either they had rank, offensive, tough flesh, or they were connected with religious superstition. The eagle, gier-eagle, osprey, kite, glede, falcon, raven, night-hawk, sea-mew, hawk, little owl, cormorant, great owl, horned owl, pelican and vulture were offensive because they were birds of prey or ate carrion or fish until their flesh partook of the odor of their food. Young ostriches have sweet, tender flesh and the eggs are edible also. In putting these birds among the abominations Moses must have been thinking of grown specimens. (Ostriches live to a remarkable age and on account of the distances they cover, and their speed in locomotion, their muscles become almost as hard as bone.)
There is a trace of his early Egyptian training when he placed the stork and the heron on this list. These birds, and the crane as well, abounded in all countries known at that time and were used for food according to the superstitions of different nations. These three were closely related to the ibis which was sacred in Egypt and it is probable that they were protected by Moses for this reason, since they were eaten by other nations at that time and cranes are used for food today by natives of our southeastern coast states and are to be found in the markets of our western coast. The veneration for the stork that exists throughout the civilized world today had its origin in Palestine. Noting the devotion of mated pairs and their tender care for the young the Hebrews named the bird chacidhah, which means kindness. Carried down the history of ages with additions by other nations, this undoubtedly accounts for the story now universal, that the stork delivers newly-born children to their homes; so the bird is loved and protected.
One ancient Roman writer, Cornelius Nepos, recorded that in his time both crane and storks were eaten; storks were liked the better. Later, Pliny wrote that no one would touch a stork, but everyone was fond of crane. In Thessaly it was a capital crime to kill a stork. This change from regarding the stork as a delicacy to its protection by a death penalty merely indicates the hold the characteristics of the bird had taken on people as it became better known, and also the spread of the regard in which it was held throughout Palestine. The hoopoe (which see) was offensive to Moses on account of extremely filthy nesting habits, but was considered a great delicacy when captured in migration by residents of southern Europe.
See also ABOMINATION; BIRDS, UNCLEAN.