And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
(Leviticus 11:16 KJV) and (Deuteronomy 14:15)
The verses above are interesting because the cuckow (cuckoo) is taken from the Hebrew word, ” שחף or shachaph” (H7828), and is only used in those two verses. Some translate it as “cuckow” (KJV, Webster), “cuckoo” (YLT), “seamew or sea-mew” (ASV, JPS, RV), “sea-hawk” (BBE), and the rest “sea-gull or sea gull” (Darby, ESV, GW, MKJV, NASB, NKJV). From the Jewish Encyclopedia about the Cuckoo, “The A. V. rendering of (shaḥaf) in Lev. xi. 16 and Deut. xiv. 15. In both places it occurs in the list of unclean birds. This identification, however, is only a conjecture, and there is no certain tradition to support it. The Targum transcribes the Hebrew word. The Septuagint gives λάρος (“sea-gull”). The R. V. rendering is “seamew,” which is accepted by Gesenius, Bertholet, and Driver in their commentaries, and by Baentsch and Lewyson (“Zoologie des Talmuds,” p. 182). The cuckoo, however, is found in Palestine, where it passes the summer. Two varieties are met with—the common and the spotted cuckoo.”
Whether it is in the cuckoo or the gull family, it is not clear. What is clear is that it was not to be eaten. For this article, I am going to concentrate on the Cuculidae Family which includes the Cuckoo, Ani, Roadrunner, Coucal, Coua, Malkoha, Koel, Drongo-Cuckoo, and Hawk-Cuckoo. All of these are in the Cuculiformes Order and all were created by the Lord.
“The Cuckoos are medium to large birds some with a long tail; species range in lenght from 6.6-28 in. (16-70 cm). The bill of all species is basically the same, varying only in size: fairly short, strong or stout, and slightly decurved”. (Complete Birds of the World, National Geographical) They are generally medium sized slender birds. The cuckoos feed on insects, insect larvae and a variety of other animals, as well as fruit. Many species are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other species, but the majority of species raise their own young.
“One of the most important distinguishing features of the family are the feet, which are zygodactyl, meaning that the two inner toes pointed forward and the two outer backward. There are two basic body forms, arboreal species (like the Common Cuckoo) which are slender and have short tarsi, and terrestrial species (like the roadrunners) which are more heavy set and have long tarsi. Almost all species have long tails which are used for steering in terrestrial species and as a rudder during flight in the arboreal species. The wing shape also varies with lifestyle, with the more migratory species like the Black-billed Cuckoo possessing long narrow wings capable of strong direct flight, and the more terrestrial and sedentary cuckoos like the coucals and malkohas having shorter rounded wings and a more laboured gliding flight.”
Below are photos of some of the birds in the Cuculidae Family in IOC 2009 order.
Photos: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Common Cuckoo, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Zygodactyl arrangement of toes