There are many creatures in the Bible, including several birds of the Bible. They appear in the Old Testament and the New Testament. At times, the Bible talks about them directly, and at others, it uses them in metaphors.
- 17 Birds Mentioned in the Bible and What They Represent
- 1. Bittern
- 2. Chicken
- 3. Cormorant
- 4. Crane
- 5. Dove
- 6. Eagle
- 7. Heron
- 8. Ostrich
- 9. Owl
- 10. Partridge
- 11. Peacock
- 12. Pigeons
- 13. Quail
- 14. Raven
- 15. Sparrow
- 16. Swallows
- 17. Vulture
- Which Bird Is Mentioned Most in the Bible?
- Which Bird Is Known As the Bird of Heaven?
- Birdwatching Through the Bible
17 Birds Mentioned in the Bible and What They Represent
Below, read about 17 birds of the Bible, followed by several related topics.
Bitterns are in the same family as herons, though they’re smaller. Bitterns have brown streaks and live in marshy areas. There is both a North American Bittern and a Eurasian Bittern. The Bible obviously refers to the latter. The Book of Isaiah mentions them in chapter 14, verse 23.
Chickens, roosters, and hens appear throughout the holy Jewish and Christian texts. Jesus uses them metaphorically in the book of Matthew (23:37), where he speaks of gathering children together as a chicken does her chicks.
Chickens are also in Deuteronomy, part of God’s law. He forbids the Israelites from eating hens and chicks or eggs simultaneously.
Cormorants are prehistoric-looking medium or large birds. They are primarily black and white, and there are species of cormorants native to almost every part of the world.
In the Bible, you’ll find them in the Book of Zephaniah (2:14), a prophet in the Old Testament. It’s also listed earlier in the books of the law as an unclean bird.
Two of the major prophets of the Old Testament mention cranes. Isaiah uses them as a symbol, writing of cranes and swallows chattering (38:14). Jeremiah uses it in a series of examples of how the rhythms and patterns in nature reflect the order of God’s plan.
The dove is one of the most potent symbols in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, after the flood that destroyed most life on earth, Noah sends a turtledove to seek evidence of land. This bird of peace returns with a brach, demonstrating that the waters receded.
Doves were a bird of sacrifice in the Jewish temple, so they appear several other times in both the Old and New Testaments.
Eagles have many meanings, and the Bible uses them primarily in metaphors and similes. They appear 30 times in the Old Testament and twice in the New.
One of the most famous passages that mention eagles is Isaiah 40:31, when it is stated that those who renew their faith in the Lord will soar on eagle wings.
We already discussed bitterns, which are related to herons. Herons are listed in the Old Testament’s books of the law as unclean birds. But what’s most interesting about them is their Hebrew name.
When translated, heron becomes ‘anaphah. This word implies that herons are angry, and it’s true that their disposition tends to be irritable much of the time.
Ostriches don’t get very good treatment in the Bible. Lamentations, a book in the Old Testament, reads much like it sounds. The author laments the state of their life and many things about the world.
Since ostriches do not incubate their eggs (they leave them in the nest and let the sun do the job), the Bible derides them for abandoning their young.
Owls have been symbols of wisdom and intelligence for a long time, so it’s no wonder they play that role in the Bible. However, the Bible doesn’t always treat owls kindly.
For example, the books of the law list it as an unclean bird. On the other hand, the prophet Isaiah mentions a “great owl” in chapter 34, verse 15.
We might first associate partridges with Christianity because of their appearance in the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” But 1 Samuel talks about the king of Israel retreating into the mountains to hunt this bird. The sand partridge is the most common in the Middle East.
Peacocks are known for their stunning plumage. The Bible lists them when it describes the riches brought back from Tarshish for King Solomon in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. The Book of Job lists them as one of the many wonders of God’s creation and proof of His goodness.
As a bird of sacrifice in the Jewish temple, pigeons are mentioned several times in the holy books. The ancient Israelites often brought pigeons to the temple when they couldn’t afford doves and other birds.
Unfortunately, many were likely killed at this time since they were a common sin offering. You could offer two pigeons instead of a lamb to cleanse you of your sins.
People living in the Holy Land and the Middle East still eat quail today. According to the Bible, God provided the Israelites with quail (along with manna) during their 40-year sojourn in the desert after leaving Egypt.
Most of this story takes place in the Book of Exodus, although the miracle of quail is also mentioned in Numbers.
While we might think of the raven as a dark bird (thanks largely to the Edgar Allan Poe poem), it’s actually the first bird mentioned in the Bible. Ravens are very common in present-day Israel and surrounding areas.
Before Noah sent out a dove to check the floodwaters, he sent a raven that didn’t return. After that, Jewish law forbids eating ravens.
The Bible mentions this small bird many times. However, it’s also important to note that some translations of the Bible use the word “sparrow” for any word meaning a small bird. Still, you’ll see them more than 40 times in the Old Testament and several more in the New.
One of the most famous passages with sparrows is found in the Book of Matthew. Jesus tells his apostles in 10:31 that they are more valuable than many sparrows.
More specifically, the barn swallow appears in the Bible. However, in Hebrew, it may more accurately translate to a swift. The Bible uses them metaphorically several times in the Old Testament. Swallows are migratory birds, so they often represent freedom.
Vultures are in the Bible several times. Commonly, they often stand in for something sinister, mainly because they feed on the carcasses of other animals. The Bible treats them similarly, even though scientists have proven their importance to their ecosystems.
Which Bird Is Mentioned Most in the Bible?
Several of the birds on the list above are in the Bible multiple times, including sparrows, pigeons, and eagles. But which is mentioned the most?
Perhaps fittingly, doves–the symbol of peace–appear most in the Bible. The raven gets top billing, but remember that Noah sends out a dove after the raven, and it’s the dove who returns with evidence of land. They’re mentioned more than 50 times.
Which Bird Is Known As the Bird of Heaven?
Of the many birds of the Bible, doves are mentioned the most and often represent the Holy Spirit. But are they the bird of heaven?
There is no strict bird of heaven in the Bible. However, in other cultures, cranes often represent longevity, heaven, and the divine. Cranes are only mentioned in the Bible twice, so they may not be as powerful in Judaism and Christianity.
Birdwatching Through the Bible
The Bible is many things. Primarily, it is the holy text for at least two major world religions. But it also chronicles the history of the early Jewish people and accounts of the life of Jesus. Even for non-religious people, it contains wisdom passed down from ancient peoples.
It also contains countless mentions of living things, including birds. The Bible may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of birdwatching, but birds are also a crucial part of God’s creation.