Owl is the rendering in the English Version of several Hebrew words. In our identifications of them we follow the ancient intimations compared with modern authorities.
1. Yanshuph (יִנשׁוּŠ), which is mentioned in Le 11:17; De 14:16, among unclean water-fowl; and in Isa 34:11 (here written yanshoph, יִנשׁוֹŠ), in the description of desolate Edom. The Sept. and Jerome translate it ibis, i.e. the Egyptian heron, according to the older commentators; and Oedmann (Sammlung, 6:27; comp. Oken, Lehrb. d. Naturg. III, 2:583) and others favor this rendering; but it has been shown that the real ibis is a smaller bird, not of the heron species, the Ibis religiosa of Cuvier; a rare bird even about Memphis, and unknown in Palestine. This, then, could not be the yanshuph of the Pentateuch, nor could the black ibis which appears about Damietta, nor any species strictly tenants of hot and watery regions, be well taken for it. See IBIS. Bochart and others, who refer the name to a species of owl, appear to disregard two other names ascribed to owls in the 16th verse of the same chapter of Leviticus. If, therefore, an owl was here again intended, it would have been placed in the former verse, or near to it. On the whole, as the Sept. refers the word to a wader, and the older commentators to a species of ardea, we accept the view already indicated by Gesenius (Thesaurus, p. 922), on etymological grounds, that a heron is intended; and the night-heron is the only one, perhaps, in all respects suited to the passages. It is a bird smaller than the common heron; distinguished by two or three white plumes hanging out of the black-capped nape of the male. In habit it is partially nocturnal. The Arabian Abu-onk (?), if not identical, is a close congener of the species, being found in every portion of the temperate and warmer climates of the earth: it is an inhabitant of Syria, and altogether is free from the principal objections made to the ibis and the owl. The Linnaean single Ardea nycticorax is now typical of a genus of that name, and includes several species of night-herons. They fly abroad at dusk, frequent the sea- shore, marshes, and rivers, feeding on mollusca, crustacea, and worms, and have a cry of a most disagreeable nature. This bird has been confounded with the night-hawk, which is a goat-sucker (caprimulgus), not a hawk.
2. Kos (כּוֹס, Le 11:17; De 14:16; Ps 102:6), rendered "little owl" and "owl of the desert," is perhaps most applicable to the white or barn owl, Strix flammea. Bochart (Hieroz. 2:267) referred this name to the pelican, on account of the assumed signification of kos, "cup," by him fancied to point out the pouch beneath the bill (so Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 695); whereas it is more probably an indication of the disproportionate bulk and flatness of the head compared with the body, of which it measures to the eve full half of the whole bird, when the feathers are raised in their usual appearance. Kos is only a variation of cup and cap, which, with some inflexions, additional or terminal particles, is common to all the great languages of the old continent. The barn-owl-is still sacred in Northern Asia.
3. Kippoz (קַפּוֹז, "great owl," Isa 34:15) has been variously supposed to designate the hedge-hog, otter, osprey, bittern, and owl. Gesenius (Thesaur. p. 1226), with Bochart, deriving the word from the root קָפִז, kaphaz, to draw together, to contract, thinks it to be a species of serpent, Serpensjaculus, i.e. the arrowsnake, so called from its darting, springing, in the mainer of the rattlesnake. But as the text evidently speaks of the habits of a bird, we may perhaps acquiesce in the translation owl. There are noticed in Egypt and Syria three well-known species of the genus Strix, or owl: Strix bubo, "the great-eared owl;" Strix flammea, the common barn-owl; and Strix passerina, the little owl. In this list Strix otus, the long-eared owl, Strix brachyotus or ulula, the short-eared owl, known nearly over the whole earth, and Strix orientaulis of Hasselquist, are not included, and several other species of these wandering birds, both of African and Asiatic regions, occur in Palestine. The eagle-owl, or great- eared owl, Strix bubo, 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, Bubo Atheniensis of Gmelin, 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. This may be the species noticed under the indefinite name of kippoz.
4. Yaanah' (יִעֲנָה, Le 11:16; De 14:15; Job 30:29; Isa 13:21; Isa 34:13; Isa 43:20; Jer 4:31; Mic 1:8), the OSTRICH SEE OSTRICH (q.v.).
5. Lilith (לַילַית, Isa 34:14), "screech-owl," but better in the margin NIGHT-MONSTER SEE NIGHT-MONSTER (q.v.).