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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Night-Hawk (; ) is mentioned as one of the unclean birds in the Pentateuch, but so little characterized that no decided opinion can be expressed as to what species is really intended. Commentators incline to the belief that the name imports voracity, and therefore indicates a species of owl, which, however, we take to be not this bird, but the lilith; and as the night-hawk of Europe, or a species very nearly allied to it, is an inhabitant of Syria, there is no reason for absolutely rejecting it in this place, since it belongs to a genus highly connected with superstitions in all countries; and though a voracious bird among moths, and other insects that are abroad during darkness, it is absolutely harmless to all other animals, and as wrongfully accused of sucking the udders of goats, as of being an indicator of misfortune and death to those who happen to see it fly past them after evening twilight; yet, beside the name of 'goat sucker,' it is denominated 'night-hawk' and 'night-raven,' as if it were a bulky species, with similar powers of mischief as those day birds possess. The night-hawk is a migratory bird, inferior in size to a thrush, and has very weak talons and bill; but the gape or mouth is wide; it makes now and then a plaintive cry, and preys on the wing; it flies with the velocity and action of a swallow, the two genera being nearly allied. Like those of most night birds the eyes are large and remarkable, and the plumage a mixture of colors and dots, with a prevailing gray effect; it is finely webbed, and entirely noiseless in its passage through the air. Thus the bright eyes, wide mouth, sudden and inaudible flight in the dusk, are the original causes of the superstitious fear these birds have excited; and as there are in southern climates other species of this genus, much larger in size, with peculiarly contrasted colors, strangely disposed feathers on the head, or paddle-shaped single plumes, one at each shoulder, projecting in the form of two additional wings, and with plaintive loud voices often uttered in the night, all the species contribute to the general awe they have inspired in every country and in all ages.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Night-Hawk'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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