Meet the 6 Birds in The Bible

starling murmuration
© iStock.com/Henk Bogaard

Written by Megan Martin

Published: January 11, 2024

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The Bible references birds often throughout its books and chapters. In many instances, the reference to birds is symbolic, highlighting key meanings or aspects. Below, learn more about 6 of the birds in the Bible.

Owl

Stygian Owl (Asio stygius) during the night.

There are 250 different species of owls in the world.

©Leandro Espino/Shutterstock.com

Owls are a common species of bird mentioned in the Bible, especially in the books of the Old Testament. During many of its references, the owl is used to symbolize destruction or death. However, in other cases, as with the Book of Job, owls are mentioned as a natural part of the environment, with one individual flying about in search of food. 

It is estimated that there are around 250 species of owls in the world. They can be found everywhere in the world except for Antarctica. As a nocturnal species, owls spend much of their waking periods during the night. Owls are birds of prey, or raptors, with widely diverse carnivorous diets.

Dove

White Dove sitting on a tree branch

In the Bible, doves are used to symbolize many different things.

©Rene Baars/Shutterstock.com

Doves often serve as a positive symbol in the Bible. During the flood of the Book of Genesis, Noah sends out a dove from the ark in search of dry land. Within the New Testament, doves have also been used to directly symbolize God.

Pigeons and doves are closely related. Both inhabit the family Columbidae, which is the only family within the order Columbiformes. The pigeons that many people are most familiar with, those that inhabit cities, are feral rock doves. These were once domesticated pets, often used in the transportation of important messages. Outside of feral rock dove, another common species is the mourning dove. Mourning doves are best known for their call, which occurs most often during the early morning.

Cormorant

Cormorant with a fish in its beak

Cormorants are often referenced alongside other aquatic birds in the Bible.

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The cormorant is less commonly mentioned in the Bible. However, references to this bird do occur, most commonly within the books of the Old Testament.

Cormorants inhabit the family Phalacrocoracidae, along with shags. In all, there are approximately 40 species within this family, all aquatic birds. The great cormorant, also known as the black shag, is one of the most common species. In much of the United Kingdom, this is the only species of cormorant inhabiting the region. Like anhingas, cormorants are often seen beside water with their wings outstretched as they dry from aquatic ventures. 

Eagle

Brown snake-eagle diving onto its prey; circaetus cinereus; South Africa

Eagle symbolize power and strength.

©Gerrit_de_Vries/Shutterstock.com

Along with doves, eagles are one of the most common species mentioned in the Bible. In many instances, the exact type of eagle is not specified, leaving the exact species to the reader’s interpretation. Throughout its many references, the eagle is used to symbolize power, vitality, and strength. References occur most often in the books of the Old Testament. 

The name “eagle” acts as a common name for various species. This includes the bald eagle and the golden eagle, two of the most common species. True eagles are found within the genus Aquila, which contains 11 known species. Surprisingly, the bald eagle is not found within this genus; instead, it is a member of the genus Haliaeetus, which is more closely related to sea eagles. Of all species referred to as eagles, however, there are 68 in total. The majority of these species inhabit Africa, Europe, and Asia. Only 14 reside outside of this range, in the Americas and Australia.

Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk Soaring

Hawks often symbolize strength and protection.

©Joseph Webber/iStock via Getty Images

In the Bible, hawks often symbolize protection. Much of the references that include hawks focus on the ways in which they protect their offspring, with wings outstretched over their young. Thanks to their aerial hunting prowess, hawks may also symbolize power and strength, similar to the eagle. 

True hawks of those in the family Accipitridae. However, in the Americas, other species, those in the genus Buteo, are also called hawks. This is not true in other regions of the world. In these locations, individuals within this genus are instead known as buzzards. Often, the terms accipitrine hawk and buteonine hawk are used to help tell the difference between the different types of hawks.

Regardless of common names, all hawks are raptors. As with many raptors, they can be found throughout the entirety of the world, inhabiting every continent except for Antarctica.

Sparrow

Fox sparrow

Sparrows are most often referenced in the New Testament books of the Bible.

©Mircea Costina/Shutterstock.com

For many of the birds in the Bible, references are most common in the Old Testament. However, sparrows are one type of bird that is more prevalent in the later books of the Bible. Sparrows can symbolize many different things. However, it is most common to see them used in reference to provision and humility. 

True sparrows are also known as Old World sparrows. They are small passerines in the family Passeridae. New World sparrows are instead in the family Passerellidae.


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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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