Vulture is the rendering, in the A.V., of two Heb. words: 1. דָּאָה, daóh (only in Le 11:14; Sept. γύψ; Vulg. milvus; the parallel passage, De 14:13, has in the corresponding position רָאָה, raah, which may be an erroneous transcription; Sept. γύψ; Vulg. ixion; A. V. "glede"), or דִּיָּה, dayah (only De 14:13, ἴκτιν; milvus; Isa 34:17, ἔλαφος; milvus); and 2. אִיָּה, aycth (only in Job 28:7, γὔψ; vultur; Le 11:14, ἴκτιν; vultur; A. V. "kite;" De 14:13, Sept. omits; Vulg. milvus; A. V. "kite").
I. There seems to be no doubt that the A. V. translation is incorrect, and that the original words refer to some of the smaller species of raptorial birds, as kites or buzzards. דִּיָּה (daydh) is evidently synonymous with Arab. h'ayah, the vernacular for the "kite" in North Africa, and without the epithet "red" for the black kite especially. Bochart (Hieroz. 2, 195) explains it Vut turniger. The Samaritan and all other Eastern versions agree in rendering it "kite." אִיּהָ (ayah) is yet more certainly referable to this bird, which, in other passages, it is taken to represent. Bochart (ibid. 2, 193) says it is the same bird which the Arabs call yanya from its cry; but does not state what species this is, supposing it, apparently, to be the magpie, the Arab name for which, however, is el-agaag.
There are two very different species of bird comprised under the English term vulture: the griffon (Gypsfulvus, Sav.), Arab. nesr; Heb. נֶשֶׁר, nasher; invariably rendered "eagle" in the A. V.; and the peranopter, or Egyptian vulture (Neophron peranopferus, Sav.), Arab. rakhma; Heb. רָחָ ם, racham; rendered "gier-eagle" in the A. V. The identity of the Hebrew and Arabic terms in these cases can scarcely be questioned. However degrading the substitution of the ignoble vulture for the royal eagle may at first sight appear in many passages, it must be borne in mind that the griffon is in all its movements and characteristics a majestic and royal bird, the largest and most powerful which is seen on the wing in Palestine, and far surpassing the eagle in size and power. Its only rival in these respects is the bearded vulture, or Lammergeyer, a more uncommon bird everywhere, and which, since it is not, like the griffon, bald on the head and neck, cannot be referred to as nesher (see Mic 1:16). Very different is the slovenly and cowardly Egyptian vulture (Neophron peranopterus), the familiar scavenger of all Oriental towns and villages, protected for its useful habits, but loathed and despised, till its name has become a term of reproach, like that of the dog or the swine. The species of vulture, properly so called, have the head naked or downy, the crop external, and very long wings; they all have an offensive smell, and we know of none that even the scavenger-ants will eat. When dead they lie on the ground untouched till the sun has dried them into mummies. Late Western commentators, anxious to distinguish eagles from vultures, have assumed that the first- mentioned never feed on carcasses; and, judging the whole family of vultures by the group of carrion-eaters alone, have insinuated that the latter do not attack a living prey. In both cases they are in error; with some exceptions, eagles follow armies, though not so abundantly as vultures; and vultures attack living prey provided with small means of defense or of little weight; but their talons having no means of grasping with energy, or of seriously wounding with the claws, they devour their prey On the spot, while the eagle carries it aloft, and thence is more liable to be stung by a serpent not entirely disabled than the vulture, who crushes the head of all reptiles it preys upon. SEE EAGLE.
If we take the Heb. ayah to refer to the red kite (Milvus regulis, Temm.), and dayoh to the black kite (Milvus ater, Temm.), we shall find the piercing sight of the former referred to by Job (Job 28:7), and the gregarious habits of the latter by Isaiah (Isa 34:15). Both species are inhabitants of Palestine, the red kite being found all over the country, as formerly in England, but nowhere in great numbers, generally soaring at a great height over the plains, according to Dr. Roth, and apparently leaving the country in winter. The black kite, which is so numerous everywhere as to be gregarious, may be seen at all times of the year hovering over the villages and the outskirts of towns, on the lookout for offal and garbage, which are its favorite food; Vulture-like, it seldom, unless pressed by hunger, attacks living animals. It is therefore never molested by the natives and builds its nest on trees in their neighborhood, fantastically decorating it with as many rags of colored cloth as it can collect. SEE GLEDE.
II. There are three species of so-called vulture known to inhabit Palestine:
1. The Lammergeyer (Gypaetos barbatus, Cuv.), which is rare everywhere, and only found in desolate mountain regions, where it, rears its young in the depth of winter among inaccessible precipices. It is looked upon by the Arabs as an eagle rather than a vulture; for, though properly neither a vulture nor an eagle, it is the largest bird of prey of the old continent, and is armed, like the eagle, with formidable claws. The head is wholly feathered; its courage is equal to its powers; and it has a strength of wing probably superior to all raptorians, excepting the condor. It is consequently found, with little or no difference, from Norway to the Cape of Good Hope, and from the Pyrenees to Japan. This is perhaps the black species, which is often figured on Egyptian monuments as the bird of victory, hovering over the head of a national hero in battle, and sometimes with a banner in each talon. SEE OSSIFRAGE.
2. The Griffon (Gyps fluvus, Sav.), mentioned above, remarkable for its power of vision and the great height at which it soars. Aristotle (Anim. Hist. 6:5) notices the manner in which the griffon scents its prey from afar, and congregates in the wake of an army. The same singular instinct was remarked in the Russian war, when vast numbers of this vulture were collected in the Crimea, and remained till the end of the campaign in the neighborhood of the camp, although previously they had been scarcely known in the country. "Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together" (Mt 24:28); "Where the slain are, there is she" (Job 39:30). Travelers have observed this bird universally distributed in all the mountainous and rocky districts of Palestine, and especially abundant in the south-east. Its favorite breeding places are between Jerusalem and Jericho, and all round the Dead Sea.
3. The third species is the above Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus, Sav.), often called Pharaoh's hen, observed in Palestine by Hasselquist and all subsequent travelers, and very numerous everywhere.
Two other species of very large size, the eared and cinereous vultures (Vultur nubicus. Smith, and Vultur. cinereus, L.) although inhabitants of the neighboring countries, and probably also of the south-east of Palestine, have not yet been noted in collections from that country.
Most of the above named species are occasionally seen in the north of Europe. The voice varies in different species; but those of Egypt, frequenting the Pyramids, are known to bark in the night like dogs. Excepting the peranopteirine (or carrion) vultures, all the other species are of large size; some superior in bulk to the swan, and others a little less. The Nubian species has been figured in Kitto's Palestine; the fulvus in Harris's Dict. of the Nat. Hist. of the Bible. See also Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 173 sq.; Wood, Bible Animals, p. 340 sq. SEE KITE.