CUCKOO (שַׁ֫חַף, H8830; CUCKOO KJV only; SEA MEW ASV; SEA GULL RSV). The root implies something thin, but with no ancillary facts it is hard to comment on this tr., found only in KJV. The European cuckoo passes through Pal., and the larger, more conspicuous great spotted cuckoo nests there in small numbers, laying its eggs only in nests of the hooded crow. It seems doubtful whether the cuckoo would be given a place in the Mosaic lists. See Owl and Gull. (See RSV, ASV, Lev 11:16; Deut 14:15.)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
kook’-oo, kuk’-oo (shachaph; laros; Latin Cuculus canorus): The Hebrew root from which the word shachaph is derived means "to be lean" and "slender," and in older versions of the Bible was translated cuckow (cuckoo). It was mentioned twice in the Bible (Le 11:16, and practically the same in De 14:15 the King James Version "cuckoo"), in the list of unclean birds. The Latin term by which we designate the bird is very similar to the Arabic, and all names for it in different countries are so nearly the same that they prove themselves based on its double cry, "cuck-oo," or the single note "kowk" or "gouk." The bird is as old as history, and interesting because the European species placed its eggs in the nests of other birds, which gave rise to much fiction concerning its habits. The European bird is a brownish gray with white bars underneath, and larger than ours, which are a beautiful olive gray, with tail feathers of irregular length touched with white, knee tufts, black or yellow bill, according to species, and beautiful sleek head and shining eyes. Our birds build their own nests, attend their young with care and are much loved for their beauty. Their food is not repulsive in any species; there never was any reason why they should have been classed among the abominations, and for these reasons scientists in search of a "lean, slender" bird of offensive diet and habit have selected the "sea-mew" (which see) which is substituted for cuckoo in the Revised Version (British and American) with good natural-history reason to sustain the change.