(צַפּוֹר, tsippor; Sept. ὄρνεον, ὀρνίδιον, τὸ πετεινόν, στρουθίον; χίμαρος in Ne 5:18, where was probably read צָפַיר; Vulg. avis, volucris, passer). The above Hebrew word occurs upwards of forty times in the Old Test. In most cases it refers indifferently to any kind of bird, as is clear, especially from its use in Ge 7:14; De 4:17. In all passages excepting two tsippor is rendered by the A.V. indifferently "bird" or "fowl." In Ps 84:3; Ps 102:7 the A.V. renders it "sparrow." The Greek στρουθίον (A.V. "sparrow") occurs twice in the New Test. (Mt 10:29; Lu 12:6-7), where the Vulg. has passeres. Tsippor, from a root (צָפִר) signifying to chirp or twitter, appears to be a phonetic representation of the call note of any passerine bird (comp. the Arabic asfur, "a sparrow"). Similarly the modern Arabs use the term zaush for all small birds which chirp, and zerzur not only for the starling, but for any other bird with a harsh, shrill twitter, both these being evidently phonetic names. Tsippor is therefore exactly translated by the Sept. στρουθίον, explained by Moschopulus τὰ μικρὰ τῶν ὀρνίθων, although it may sometimes have been used in a more restricted sense (see Athen. Deipn. 9, 391, where two kinds of στρουθία in the more restricted signification are noted), but in general both terms properly designate any small bird (Ge 15:10; Le 14:4,53, marg.; Isa 31:5; Mt 10:29,31; Lu 12:6-7). The Hebrew name evidently included all the small birds denominated "clean," or those that might be eaten without violating the precepts of the law, including many insectivorous and frugivorous species, as all the thrushes, the starlings, the larks, the finches, and some others (De 4:17; Job 41:5; Ps 8:8; Ps 11:1; Ps 104:17; Pr 26:2; Pr 27:8). Accordingly we treat in this article somewhat extensively the ornithological features and customs of Palestine. SEE BIRD.
1. Numerous Species. — It was reserved for later naturalists to discriminate the immense variety of the smaller birds of the passerine order. Excepting in the cases of the thrushes and the larks, the natural history of Aristotle scarcely comprehends a longer catalogue than that of Moses.
Yet in few parts of the world are the kinds of passerine birds more numerous or more abundant than in Palestine. A very cursory survey has supplied a list of above one hundred different species of this order (see Ibis, 1, 26 sq., and 4, 277 sq.). But although so numerous, they are not generally noticeable for any peculiar brilliancy of plumage beyond the birds of our own climate. In fact, with the exception of the denizens of the mighty forests and fertile alluvial plains of the tropics, it is a popular error to suppose that the nearer we approach the equator, the more gorgeous necessarily is the coloration of the birds. There are certain tropical families with a brilliancy of plumage which is unrivalled elsewhere; but any outlying members of these groups — as, for instance, the kingfisher of Britain, or the bee eater and roller of Europe — are not surpassed in brightness of dress by any of their Southern relations. Ordinarily in the warmer temperate regions, especially in those which, like Palestine, possess neither dense forests nor morasses, there is nothing in the brilliancy of plumage which especially arrests the attention of the unobservant. It is therefore no matter for surprise if, in an unscientific age, the smaller birds were generally grouped indiscriminately under the term tsippor, ὀρνίδιον, or passer. The proportion of bright to obscure colored birds is not greater in Palestine than in England; and this is especially true of the southern portion, Judaea, where the wilderness, with its bare hills and arid ravines, affords a home chiefly to those species which rely for safety and concealment on the modesty and inconspicuousness of their plumage.
Although the common sparrow of England (Passer domesticus, Linn.) does not occur in the Holy Land, its place is abundantly supplied (see Thomson, Land and Book, 1, 53, 397) by two very closely allied southern species (Passer salicicola, Vieill., and Passer cisalpina, Tem.). The English tree sparrow (Passer montanus, Linn.) is also very common, and may be seen in numbers on Mount Olivet, and also about the sacred enclosure of the Mosque of Omar. This is perhaps the exact species referred to in Ps 84:3, "Yea, the sparrow hath found a house." Though in Britain it seldom frequents houses, yet in China, to which country its eastward range extends, Mr. Swinhoe, in his Ornithology of Amoy, informs us its habits are precisely those of our familiar house sparrow. Its shyness may be the result of persecution; but in the East the Mussulmans hold in respect any bird which resorts to their houses, and in reverence such as build in or about the mosques, considering them to be under the Divine protection. This natural veneration has doubtless been inherited from antiquity. We learn from AElian (Var. Hist. 5, 17) that the Athenians condemned a man to death for molesting a sparrow in the Temple of AEsculapius. The story of Aristodicus of Cyme, who rebuked the cowardly advice of the oracle of Branchidae to surrender a suppliant by his symbolical act of driving the sparrows out of the temple, illustrates the same sentiment (Herod. 1, 159), which was probably shared by David and the Israelites, and is alluded to in the psalm. There can be no difficulty in interpreting מַזבֵּחוֹת, not as the altar of sacrifice exclusively, but as the place of sacrifice, the sacred enclosure generally, τὸ τέμενος, "fanum." The interpretation of some commentators, who would explain צַפּוֹר in this passage of certain sacred birds, kept and preserved by the priests in the Temple like the sacred ibis of the Egyptians, seems to be wholly without warrant (see Bochart, 3, 21, 22).
Most of the commoner small birds are found in Palestine. The starling, chaffinch, greenfinch, linnet, goldfinch, corn bunting, pipits, blackbird, song thrush, and the various species of wagtail abound. The woodlark (A lauda arborea, Linn.), crested lark (Galerida cristata, Boie.), Calandra lark (Melanocorypha calandra, Bp.), short-toed lark (Calandrella. brachydactyla, Kaup.), Isabel lark (A lauda deserti, Licht.), and various other desert species, which are snared in great numbers for the markets, are far more numerous on the Southern plains than the skylark in England. In the olive yards, and among the brushwood of the hills, the Ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana, Linn.), and especially Cretzschmaer's bunting (Emberiza coesia, Cretz.), take the place of the common yellow hammer, an exclusively Northern species. Indeed, the second is seldom out of the traveler's sight, hopping before him from bough to bough with its simple but not pleasing note. As most of the warblers (Sylviadoe) are summer migrants, and have a wide eastern range, it was to be expected that they should occur in Syria; and accordingly upwards of twenty of those on the British list have been noted there, including the robin, redstart, whitethroat, blackcap, nightingale, willow wren, Dartford warbler, whinchat, and stonechat. Besides these, the Palestine lists contain fourteen others, more southern species, of which the most interesting are perhaps the little fantail (Cisticola schoenicola, Bp.); the orphean (Curruca orphoea, Boie.), and the Sardinian warbler (Sylvia melanocephala, Lath.).
The chats (Saxicoloe), represented in Britain by the wheatear; whinchat, and stonechat, are very numerous in the southern parts of the country. At least nine species have been observed, and by their lively motions and the striking contrast of black and white in the plumage of most of them, they are the most attractive and conspicuous bird inhabitants which catch the eye in the hill country of Judaea, the favorite resort of the genus. Yet they are not recognized among the Bedawin inhabitants by any name to distinguish them from the larks.
The rock sparrow (Petronia stulta, Strickl.) is a common bird in the barer portions of Palestine, eschewing woods, and generally to be seen perched alone on the top of a rock or on any large stone. From this habit it has been conjectured to be the bird alluded to in Ps 102:7, as "the sparrow that sitteth alone upon the housetop;" but as the rock sparrow, though found among ruins, never resorts to inhabited buildings, it seems more probable that the bird to which the psalmist alludes is the blue thrush (Petrocossyphus cyaneus, Boie.), a bird so conspicuous that it cannot fail to attract attention by its dark-blue dress and its plaintive monotonous note, and which may frequently be observed perched on houses, and especially on outbuildings, in the villages of Judaea. It is a solitary bird, eschewing the society of its own species, and rarely more than a pair are seen together. Certainly the allusion of the psalmist will not apply to the sociable and garrulous house or tree sparrows (see Tristram Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 202; Wood, Bible Animals, p. 403).
Among the most conspicuous of the small birds of Palestine are the shrikes (Lanii), of which the red backed shrike (Lanius collurio, Linn.) is a familiar example in the south of England but there represented by at least five species, all abundantly and generally distributed, viz. Enneoctonus rufus, Bp.; the woodchat shrike, Lanius meridionalis, Linn.; L. minor, Linn.; L. personatus, Tem.; and Telephonus cucullatus, Gr.
2. Special Biblical Notices. — There are but two allusions to the singing of birds in the Scriptures, Ec 12:4 and Ps 104:12," By them shall the fowls (עוֹŠ) of the heaven have their habitation which sing among the branches." As the psalmist is here speaking of the sides of streams and rivers ("By them"), he probably had in his mind the bulbul of the country; or Palestine nightingale (Ixos xanthopygius, Hempr.), a bird not very far removed from the thrush tribe, and a closely allied species of which is the true bulbul of Persia and India. This lovely songster, whose notes, for volume and variety, surpass those of the nightingale, wanting only the final cadence, abounds in all the wooded districts of Palestine, and especially by the banks of the Jordan, where in the early morning it fills the air with its music.
In one passage (Eze 39:4), tsippir is joined with the epithet עִיַט (ravenous), which may very well describe the raven and the crow, both passerine birds, yet carrion feeders. Nor is it necessary to stretch the interpretation so as to include raptorial birds, which are distinguished in Hebrew and Arabic by so many specific appellations.
With the exception of the raven tribe, there is no prohibition in the Levitical law against any passerine birds being used for food; while the wanton destruction or extirpation of any species was guarded against by the humane provision in De 22:6. Small birds were therefore probably as ordinary an article of consumption among the Israelites as they still are in the markets both of the Continent and of the East. The inquiry of our Lord, "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings?" (Lu 12:6), "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? (Mt 10:29), points to their ordinary exposure for sale in his time. At the present day the markets of Jerusalem and Jaffa are attended by many "fowlers" who offer for sale long strings of little birds of various species, chiefly sparrows, wagtails, and larks. These are also frequently sold ready plucked, trussed in rows of about a dozen on slender wooden skewers, and are cooked and eaten like kabobs. See Hackett, Illus. of Script. p. 86.
3. Modes of Capture. — It may well excite surprise how such vast numbers can be taken, and how they can be vended at a price too small to have purchased the powder, required for shooting them. But the gun is never used in their pursuit. The ancient methods of fowling to which we find so many allusions in the Scriptures are still pursued, and, though simple, are none the less effective. The art of fowling is spoken of no less than seven times in connection with צַפּוֹר, e.g. "a bird caught in the snare," "bird hasteth to the snare," "fall in a snare," "escaped out of the snare of the fowler." There is also one still more precise allusion, in Ec 11:10, to the well-known practice of using decoy or call birds, πέρδιξ θηρευτὴς ἐν καρτάλλῳ. The reference in Jer 5:27," As a cage is full of birds"(עוֹפַים), is probably to the same mode of snaring birds.
There are four or five simple methods of fowling practiced at this day in Palestine which are probably identical with those alluded to in the Old Test. The simplest, but by no means the least successful, among the dexterous Bedawin, is fowling with the throw stick. The only weapon used is a short stick, about eighteen inches long and half an inch in diameter, and the chase is conducted after the fashion in which, as we read, the Australian natives pursue the kangaroo with their boomerang. When the game has been discovered, which is generally the red-legged great partridge (Caccabis saxatilis, Mey.), the desert partridge (Ammoperdix Heyi, Gr.), or the little bustard (Otix tetrax, Linn.), the stick is hurled with a revolving motion so as to strike the legs of the bird as it runs, or sometimes at a rather higher elevation, so that when the victim, alarmed by the approach of the weapon, begins to rise, its wings are struck and it is slightly disabled. The fleet pursuers soon come up, and, using their burnouses as a sort of net, catch and at once cut the throat of the game. The Mussulmans rigidly observe the Mosaic injunction (Le 17:13) to spill the blood of every slain animal on the ground. This primitive mode of fowling is confined to those birds which, like the red-legged partridges and bustards, rely for safety chiefly on their running powers, and are with difficulty induced to take flight. "Tristram once witnessed the capture of the little desert partridge (Ammoperdix Heyi) by this method in the wilderness near Hebron; an interesting illustration of the expression in 1Sa 26:20, "as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains." A more scientific method of fowling is that alluded to in Ec 11:10, by the use of decoy birds. The birds employed for this purpose are very carefully trained and perfectly tame, that they may utter their natural call note without any alarm from the neighborhood of main. Partridges, quails, larks, and plovers are taken by this kind of fowling, especially the two former. The decoy bird, in a cage, is placed in a concealed position, while the fowler is secreted in the neighborhood, near enough to manage his gins and snares. For game birds a common method is to construct of brushwood a narrow run leading to the cage, sometimes using a sort of bagnet within the brushwood. This has a trap door at the entrance, and when the dupe has entered the run, the door is dropped. Great numbers of quail are taken in this manner in spring. Sometimes, instead of the more elaborate decoy of a run, a mere cage with an open door is placed in front of the decoy bird, of course well concealed by grass and herbage, and the door is let fall by a string, as in the other method. For larks and other smaller birds the decoy is used in a somewhat different manner. The cage is placed without concealment on the ground, and springs, nets, or horse-hair nooses are laid round it to entangle the feet of those which curiosity attracts to the stranger; or a net is so contrived as to be drawn over them, if the cage be placed in a thicket or among brushwood. Immense numbers can be taken by this means in a very short space of time. Traps, the door of which overbalances by the weight of the bird, exactly like the traps used by the shepherds on the Sussex downs to take wheatears and larks, are constructed by the Bedawin boys, and also the horsehair springs so familiar to all English schoolboys, though these devices are not wholesale enough to repay the professional fowler. It is to the noose on the ground that reference is made in Ps 124:7, "The snare is broken, and we are escaped." In the towns and gardens great numbers of birds, starlings and others, are taken for the markets at night by means of a large loose net on two poles, and a lantern, which startles the birds from their perch, when they fall into the net.
At the season of migration immense numbers of birds, and especially quails, are taken by a yet more simple method. When notice has been given of the arrival of a flight of quails, the whole village turns out. The birds, fatigued by their long flight, generally descend to rest in some open space a few acres in extent. The fowlers, perhaps twenty or thirty in number, spread themselves in a circle round them, and, extending their large loose burnouses with both arms before them, gently advance towards the center, or to some spot where they take care there shall be some low brushwood. The birds, not seeing their pursuers, and only slightly alarmed by the cloaks spread before them, begin to run together without taking flight, until they are hemmed into a very small space. At a given signal the whole of the pursuers make a din on all sides, and the flock, not seeing any mode of escape, rush huddled together into the bushes, when the burnouses are thrown over them, and the whole are easily captured by hand.
Although we have evidence that dogs were used by the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Indians in the chase, yet there is no allusion in Scripture to their being so employed among the Jews, nor does it appear that any of the ancients employed the sagacity of the dog, as we do that of the pointer and setter, as an auxiliary in the chase of winged game. At the present day the Bedawin of Palestine employ, in the pursuit of larger game, a very valuable race of greyhounds, equaling the Scottish staghound in size and strength; but the inhabitants of the towns have a strong prejudice against the unclean animal, and never cultivate its instinct for any further purpose than that of protecting their houses and flocks (Job 30:1; Isa 56:10) and of removing the offal from their towns and villages. No wonder, then, that its use has been neglected for purposes which would have entailed the constant danger of defilement from an unclean animal, besides the risk of being compelled to reject as food game which might be torn by the dogs (comp. Ex 22:31; Le 22:8, etc.).
Whether falconry was ever employed as a mode of fowling or not is by no means so clear. Its antiquity is certainly much greater than the introduction of dogs in the chase of birds; and from the statement of Aristotle (Anim. Hist. 9, 24), "In the city of Thrace, formerly called Cedropolis, men hunt birds in the marshes with the help of hawks," and from the allusion to the use of falconry in India, according to Photius's abridgment of Ctesias, we may presume that the art was known to the neighbors of the ancient Israelites (see also AElian, De Nat. Anim. 4, 26, and Pliny, 10, 8). Falconry, however, requires an open and not very rugged country for its successful pursuit, and Palestine west of the Jordan is in its whole extent ill adapted for this species of chase. At the present day falconry is practiced with much care and skill by the Arab inhabitants of Syria, though not in Judaea proper. It is, indeed; the favorite amusement of all the Bedawin of Asia and Africa, and esteemed an exclusively noble sport, only to be indulged in by wealthy sheiks. The rarest and most valuable species of hunting falcon (Falco lanarius, Linn.), the lanner, is a native of the Lebanon and of the northern hills of Palestine. It is highly prized by the inhabitants, and the young are taken from the nest and sold for a considerable price to the chieftains of the Hauran. Forty pounds sterling is no uncommon price for a well trained falcon. A description of falconry as now practiced among the Arabs would be out of place here, as there is no direct allusion to the subject in the Old or New Test. SEE FOWLER.