Hawk (נֵוֹ, nets, from its swift flight; Sept. lipaa; Vulg. accipiter), an English name in an altered form of the old word fawk or falk, and in natural history representing several genera of raptorial birds; as does the Arabic naz, and no doubt, also, the Hebrew nets, a term expressive of strong and rapid flight, and therefore highly appropriate to the hawk: the similarity of the Latin name nisus is worthy of notice. The hawk is noticed as an unclean bird (Le 11:16: De 14:15), and as "stretching her wings toward the south" (Job 39:26) — an expression which has been variously understood as referring either to the migratory habits of the bird, one species alone being an exception to the general rule in this respect (Pliny, 10:9); or to its molting, and seeking the warmth of the sun's rays in consequence (Bochart, Hieroz. 3, 9); or, lastly, to the opinion prevalent in ancient times, that it was the only bird whose keen eye could bear the direct rays of the sun (Elian, H. A. 10, 14). The hawk, though not migratory in all countries, is so in the south of Europe and in parts of Asia. It was common in Syria and the surrounding countries. In Egypt one species was regarded as sacred, and frequently appears on the ancient monuments. Western Asia and Lower Egypt, and consequently the intermediate territory of Syria and Palestine, are the habitation or transitory residence of a considerable number of species of the order Raptores, which, even including the shortest-winged, have great powers of flight, are remarkably enterprising, live to a great age, are migratory, or followers upon birds of passage, or remain in a region so abundantly stocked with pigeon and turtle-dove as Palestine, and affording such variety of ground to hunt their particular prey, abounding as it does in mountain and forest, plain, desert, marsh, river, and sea-coast. SEE NIGHT-HAWK.
Falcons, or the "noble" birds of prey used for hawking, have-for many ages been objects of great interest, and still continue to be imported from distant countries. The Falco communis, or peregrine falcon, is so generally diffused as to occur even in New Holland and South America. As a type of the genus, we may add that it has the two foremost quill-feathers of almost equal length, and that when the wings are closed they nearly reach the end of the tail. On each side of the crooked point of the bill there is an angle or prominent tooth, and from the nostrils backwards a black streak passes beneath the eye and forms a patch on each side of the throat, giving the bird and its congeners a whiskered and menacing aspect. Next we may place Falco Aroeris, the sacred hawk of Egypt, in reality the same as, or a mere variety of the peregrine. Innumerable representations of it occur in Egyptian monuments, in the character of Horhat, or bird of victory; also an emblem of Re, the Sun, and numerous other divinities (Sir J. G. Wilkinson's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, 2nd series). The hobby, Falco subbuteo, is no doubt a second or third species of sacred hawk, having similar whiskers. Both this bird and the tractable merlin, Falco cesalon, are used in the falconry of the inferior Moslem landowners of Asiatic Turkey. Besides these, the kestril, Falco tinnunculus, occurs in Syria, and Falco tinnunculoides, or lesser kestril, in Egypt; and it is probable that both species visit these two territories according to the seasons. To these we may add the gerfalcon, Falco gyrfalco, which is one third larger than the peregrine: it is imported from Tartary, and sold at Constantinople, Aleppo, and Damascus. The great birds fly at antelopes, bustards, cranes, etc.; and of the genus Astur, with shorter wings than true falcons, the goshawk, Falce palumbarius, and the falcon gentil, Falco gentilis, are either imported, or taken in their nests, and used to fly at lower and aquatic game. It is among the above that the seven species of hunting hawks enumerated by Dr.. Russell must be sought; though, from the circumstance that the Arabic names of the birds alone were known to him, it is difficult to assign their scientific denominations. The smaller and less powerful hawks of the genus Nrisus are mostly in use on account of the sport they afford, being less fatiguing, as they are employed to fly at pigeons, partridges, quails, pterocles, katta, and other species of ganga. There are various other raptorial birds, not here enumerated, found in Syria, Arabia, and Egypt. SEE EAGLE; SEE GLEDE; SEE KITE; SEE OSPREY; SEE VULTURE.
The generic character of the Heb. word nets appears from the expression in Deuteronomy and Leviticus "after his kind," as including various species of the Falconidce, with more especial allusion, perhaps, to the small diurnal birds, such as the kestrel (Falco tinninculus), the hobby (Hypotriorchis subbuteo), the gregarious lesser kestril (Tinnunculus cenchris), common about the ruins in the plain districts of Palestine, all of which were probably known to the ancient Hebrews. With respect to the passage in Job (1. c.), which appears to allude to the migratory habits of hawks, it is curious to observe that of the ten or twelve lesser raptors of Palestine, nearly all are summer migrants. The kestrel remains all the year, but T. cenchris, Micronisus gabar, Hyp. eleonorae, and F. mela nopterus, are all migrants from the south. Besides the above-named smaller hawks, the two magnificent species, F. sacer and F. lanarius, are summer visitors to Palestine. These two species of falcons, and perhaps the hobby and goshawk (Astur palumbarius), are employed by the Arabs in Syria and Palestine for the purpose of taking partridges, sand-grouse, quails, herons, gazelles, hares, etc. Dr. Russell (Nat. Hist. of Aleppo 2, 196, 2nd ed.) has given the Arabic names of several falcons, but it is probable that some at least of these names apply rather to the different sexes than to distinct species. See a graphic description of the sport of falconry, as pursued by the Arabs of N. Africa, in the Ibis, 1, 284. No representation of such a sport occurs on the monuments of ancient Egypt (see Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. 1, 221), neither is there any definite allusion to falconry in the Bible.
With regard, however, to the negative evidence supplied by the monuments of Egypt, we must be careful ere we draw a conclusion, for the camel is not represented, though we have Biblical evidence to show that this animal was used by the Egyptians as early as the time of Abraham; still, as instances of various modes of capturing fish, game, and wild animals are not infrequent on the monuments, it seems probable that the art was not known to the Egyptians. Nothing definite can be learnt from the passage in 1Sa 26:20, which speaks of" a partridge hunted on the mountains," as this may allude to the method of taking these birds by "throw sticks," etc. SEE PARTRIDGE. The hind or hart "panting after the water-brooks" (Ps 42:1) may appear at first sight to refer to the mode at present adopted in the East of taking gazelles, deer, and bustards with the united aid of falcon and greyhound; but, as Hengstenberg (Comment. on Psalm 1. c.) has argued, it seems pretty clear that the exhaustion spoken of is to be understood as arising, not from pursuit, but from some prevailing drought, as in Ps 63:1, "My soul thirsteth for thee in a dry land." (See also Joe 1:20.) The poetical version of Brady and Tate,
"As pants the nart for cooling streams When heated in the chase,"
has therefore somewhat prejudged the matter. For the question as to whether falconry was known to the ancient Greeks, see Beckmann, History of Inventions (1, 198-205, Bohn's ed.). SEE FALCON.