(by ornithologists, Osprey) is the rendering in the A. V. of the Hebrew עָזנַיָּה, ozniyah' (Sept. ἁλιαίετος, or sea-eagle; which Jerome follows, halyetus and halecetus, some copies translating it aquila marina; but the Veneto-Greek MS. has γύψ, the vulture, from mere conjecture); the name of some unclean bird which the law of Moses disallowed as food to the Israelites (Le 11:13; De 14:12). The Hebrew etymology, from the root עָזִז, to strengthen, would seem to point to some bird remarkably powerful, fierce, or impudent. Bochart supposes the black eagle to be meant, but reasons upon the mere conjecture that by the word ἁλιαίετος is intended μελαναίετος (Hieroz. 3:188, etc.). The traditional interpretation favors the English rendering, the name and description of this bird having been copied and preserved from hand to hand, at least from Aristotle's time to our own. Thus, Gesner and Aldrovandus copied from Aristotle (Ray, Preface to Willoughby's Ornithology); from them Willoughby took the names of his birds; and on this system Linnaeus based his classification (Neville Wood, Ornithologists' Text-book, p. 3). Aristotle, about B.C. 300 (probably contemporary with the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek; see above), describes the ἁλιαίετος as "a species of eagle dwelling near seas and lakes; and remarks it sometimes happens to it that, having seized its prey, and not being able to carry it, it is drowned in the deep" (Hist. Animal. 9, c. 32). — The same word is found in the writings of Pliny (A.D. 70) with the following description: "There remains (to be mentioned) the halicetos, having the most penetrating vision of all (eagles); soaring (or balancing itself) on high, and upon perceiving a fish in the sea, rushing down headlong, and with its breast dashing aside the waters, seizing its prey" (Hist. Nat. 10:3). The halicetus is described in the very words of Aristotle and Pliny by Aldrovandus (lib. 12, Bonon. 1594, p. 194). For the transference of names into the Linnaean system, see Systema Naturae, 1:129 (Holmiae, 1767). The word, according to its etymology, signifies sea-eagle, and the traditional English word is osprey. The following accounts. from modern naturalists are strikingly in accordance with the ancient descriptions: Species of the halietus, or sea-eagle, occur in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australia (Selby's British Ornithology). Mr. Macgillivray describes "its savage scream of anger when any one approaches the neighborhood of its nest, its intimidating gestures. and even its attempts to molest individuals who have ventured among its native crags." Mr. Selby (Illustrations of British Ornithology, 1825), respecting the osprey, observes, "It is strictly piscivorous, and is found only in the vicinity of lakes, rivers, or such pools as abound with fish. It is a powerful bird, often weighing five pounds; the limbs are very muscular in proportion to its general dimensions; its feet are admirably adapted for retaining firm hold of its slippery prey." Mr. Montagu (Ornithological Dictionary, 1802, s.v. Ospray) remarks, "Its principal food is fish, which it often catches with great dexterity, by pouncing upon them with vast rapidity. and carrying them off in its talons." See also Grandsagne's edition of Pliny, with Notes and Excursus by Cuvier (Parisiis, 1828), p. 215. This fine and powerful bird of prey has a wide geographical distribution. It is spread over the whole of Europe and Asia from Norway to Kamtchatka, from Ireland and Portugal to India and Japan. On all the coasts of the Mediterranean it is common, and in Africa it reaches from Egypt to the Cape. In America Dr. Richardson found it in the arctic regions; Wilson and Audubon describe it as abundant throughout the United States; and it is seen fishing in the West Indies. Its prey is fish, and to obtain this it selects its eyryon some bold headland jutting out into the sea, or a tall cliff overlooking the broad reach of a river, or a blasted pine that springs out of the rifted rock where a cataract plunges down the steep. The manners of this bold seaking have been eloquently described by Wilson:

"In leaving the nest, he usually flies direct till he comes to the sea, then sails around in easy curving lines, turning sometimes in the air as on a pivot, apparently without the least exertion, rarely moving the wings, his legs extended in a straight line behind, and his remarkable length and curvature of wing distinguishing him from all other hawks. The height at which he thus elegantly glides is various, from one hundred to one hundred and fifty and two hundred feet, sometimes much higher, all the while calmly reconnoitring the face of the deep below. Suddenly he is seen to check his course, as if struck by a particular object, which he seems to survey for a few moments with such steadiness that he appears fixed in the air, flapping his wings. This object, however, he abandons, or rather the fish he had in his eye has disappeared, and he is again seen sailing around as before. Now his attention is again arrested, and he descends with great rapidity; but ere he reaches the surface shoots off on another course, as if ashamed that a second victim had escaped him. He now sails at a short height above the surface, and by a zigzag descent, and without seeming to dip his feet in the water, seizes a fish, which, after carrying a short distance, he probably drops, or yields up to the bald-eagle, and again ascends by easy spiral circles to the higher regions of the air, where he glides about in all the ease and majesty of his species. At once, from this sublime aerial height, he descends like a perpendicular torrent, plunging into the sea with a loud rushing sound, and with the certainty of a rifle. In a few moments he emerges, bearing in his claws his struggling prey, which he always carries head foremost, and having risen a few feet above the surface, shakes himself as a water spaniel would do, and directs his heavy and laborious course directly for the land. The hawk, however, in his fishing pursuits, sometimes mistakes his mark, or overrates his strength by striking fish too large and powerful for him to manage, by whom he is suddenly dragged under; and though he sometimes succeeds in extricating himself, after being taken down three or four times, yet oftener both parties perish. The bodies of sturgeon, and of several other large fish, with a fish-hawk fast grappled in them, have at different sites been found dead on the shore, cast up by the waves" (Amer. Ornith. s.v. Fishhawk).

Definition of ospray

With this may be compared the description of another modern naturalist, Dr. Richardson: "When looking out for its prey it sails with great ease and elegance, in undulating lines at a considerable altitude above the water, from whence it precipitates itself upon its quarry, and bears it off in its claws." The osprey belongs to the family Falconide, order Raptores. It has a wide geographical range, and is occasionally seen in Egypt; but as it is rather a northern bird, the Hebrew word may refer, as Mr. Tristram suggests to us, either to the Aquila noevia or Aquila noevioides, or more probably still to the very abundant Circaetus gallicus which feeds upon reptilia (Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 185).

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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