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GULL (שָׁ֑חַף, Lev 11:16, Deut 14:15 “the sea gull, the hawk, after their kind,” RSV “cuckoo” KJV; “sea mew” ASV). To find the tr. “sea gull,” RSV has gone back to some of the early VSS (LXX and Vulg.). Driver rejects this, for it conflicts with his hypothesis that the list consists mainly of birds of prey, and he suggests “Long-eared Owl”; but perhaps “gull” should not be rejected so quickly. It is doubtful whether a bird as rare and local as this owl, which is strictly nocturnal and found in woods, would be separately named and banned. In contrast, the gulls are numerous, diurnal, and conspicuous. Ten true gulls and eight other members of the family are recorded in Pal.; five are only rare stragglers, but the others migrate. Those that come from the S often fly up the Gulf of Aqaba to make a landfall at Eilat, before traveling overland. The winter visitors are the commonest, including lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls; their flocks may run into hundreds and they may be seen on the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, on the Lake of Galilee and around the great complexes of fishponds. Only the Herring Gull nests in Pal., and the Black, Common and Little Terns. Most gulls are scavengers and would certainly rank as unclean. It seems much more reasonable to specify them than such uncommon skulkers and the cuckoo and Longeared Owl.


G. R. Driver “Birds in the OT,” I, Birds in Law PEQ (1955), 5-20.

See also

  • Birds