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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

Cormorant

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Fig. 136—Caspian Tern

Cormorant (Hebrew Salach) occurs; . The name is considered to have reference to darting, rushing, or stooping like a falcon. Nothing is known of it but that it was an unclean bird. Cuvier considers Gesner to be right in considering it to denote a gull, and it might certainly be applied with propriety to the black-backed gull; but although birds of such powerful wing and marine habitat are spread over a great part of the world, it does not appear that, if known at the extremity of the Mediterranean, they were sufficiently common to have been clearly indicated by either the Hebrew or Greek names, or to have merited being noticed in the Mosaic prohibition. Both the above are in general northern residents, being rarely seen even so low as the Bay of Biscay. With regard to the cormorant, birds of that genus are no doubt found on the coasts of Palestine, where high cliffs extend to the sea-shore; but all the species dive, and none of them rush flying upon their prey. We therefore conclude the salach to have been a species of 'tern,' considered to be identical with the 'Sterna Caspica,' so called because it is found about the Caspian Sea; but it is equally common to the Polar, Baltic, and Black Seas, and if truly the same, is not only abundant for several months in the year on the coast of Palestine, but frequents the lakes and pools far inland; flying across the deserts to the Euphrates, and to the Persian and Red Seas, and proceeding up the Nile. It is the largest of the tern or sea-swallow genus, being about the weight of a pigeon, and near two feet in length, having a large black naped head; powerful, pointed crimson bill; a white and grey body, with forked tail, and wings greatly exceeding the tips of the tail: the feet are very small, weak, and but slightly webbed, so that it swims perhaps only accidentally, but with sufficient power on land to spring up and to rise from level ground. It flies with immense velocity, darting along the surface of the sea to snap at mollusca or small fishes, or wheeling through the air in pursuit of insects; and in calm weather, after rising to a great height, it drops perpendicularly down to near the surface of the water, but never alights except on land; and it is at all times disposed to utter a kind of laughing scream. This tern nestles in high cliffs, sometimes at a very considerable distance from the sea. We figure one that was shot among a flight of these birds, some distance up the river Orontes.

 

 

 

 

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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Cormorant'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/c/cormorant.html.

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