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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Fig. 284—Owl

There are noticed in Egypt and Syria three well known species of the genus Strix, or owl—'the great-eared owl;' the common barn owl; and the little owl. In this list the long-eared owl, the short-eared owl, known nearly over the whole earth, and the Oriental owl of Hasselquist, are not included, and several other species of these wandering birds, both of Africa and Asiatic regions, occur in Palestine. The barn owl is still sacred in Northern Asia.

The eagle-owl, or great-eared owl, we do not find in ornithological works as an inhabitant of Syria, though no doubt it is an occasional winter visitant and the smaller species, which may be a rare but permanent resident, probably also visiting Egypt. It is not, however, we believe, that species, but the Otus ascalaphus of Cuvier, which is common in Egypt, and which in all probability is the type of the innumerable representations of an eared owl in hieroglyphical inscriptions.

Next we have the short-eared owl, likewise found in Egypt and Arabia, as well as to the north of Syria, a bold, pugnacious bird, residing in ruined buildings, mistaken by commentators for the screech-owl. The spectral species, again, confounded with the goat-sucker, is, we believe, Strix coromanda [NIGHT-HAWK], and the same as the Oriental owl of Hasselquist.

The little owl of Egypt is not likely to be the Passerine species of Europe, and probably does not occur under a distinct name in Biblical Hebrew; but that the owls which inhabited Palestine were numerous may be inferred with tolerable certainty from the abundance of mice, rats, and other vermin, occasioned by the offal and offerings at the numerous sacrifices, and consequently the number of nocturnal birds of prey that subsisted upon them, and were tolerated for that purpose.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Owl'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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