Birds of the Bible

Flying birds. Photographer: Anthony Delanoix. Licensed. File ID: btQt9i0Krag

Birds of many types are appear in Scripture. Singing birds are mentioned in Psalm 104:12 and Eccl. 12:4.

Types of birds mentioned

What does the reference to birds mean in Psalm 84:1-4 ?

How lovely are Your dwelling places,
Lord of armies!
My soul longed and even yearned for the courtyards of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may put her young
Your altars, Lord of armies,
My King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You. —Psalm 84:1-4 NASB

The highly idiomatic paraphrase of this verse by Eugene H. Peterson in The Message Bible reads…

Birds find nooks and crannies in your house,
sparrows and swallows make nests there.
They lay their eggs and raise their young,
singing their songs in the place where we worship.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies! King! God!
How blessed they are to live and sing there!

Clean and unclean for Israelites

In the Mosaic law, birds are divided into two classes…

  1. the clean (Leviticus 1:14-17; 5:7-10; 14:4-7), which were offered in sacrifice

  2. the unclean (Leviticus 11:13-20)

Eating of birds

Eating of birds and other animals was not permitted by God until after the worldwide flood of Noah’s time. This was not part of God’s original Creation, where mankind was given plants, fruits, and such for food (Genesis 1:30). In paradise, there was no death of animals or man. Death came as a result of sin—the fall of man.

God blessed them [Adam and Eve]; and God said to them,

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Then God said,

“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every animal of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”;

and it was so. —Genesis 1:28-30 NASB

After the Flood (probably due to survival needs in the much harsher conditions of the post-Flood world), God allowed Noah and his family (and descendants) to eat animals. However, He simultaneously placed a fear of man into birds and other animals, providing the creatures with new caution to the threat of humans amid their new vulnerability.

The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every animal of the earth and on every bird of the sky; on everything that crawls on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea. They are handed over to you. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I have given everything to you, as I gave the green plant. —Genesis 9:2-3 NASB

The timidity (“trembling”) of birds is alluded to in Hosea 11:11.

After God’s chosen people (the Israelites) were delivered from bondage in Egypt, the Bible mentions that certain birds are allowed them as a food source…

“You may eat any clean bird.” —Deuteronomy 14:11 NASB

God’s law for the Israelites forbid them from simultaneouly taking both eggs or chicks along with their mother…

“If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.” —Deuteronomy 22:6 NASB


The art of snaring wild birds is referred to in Psalm 124:7; Proverbs 1:17; 7:23; and Jeremiah 5:27.


When offered in sacrifice, birds were not divided into pieces as other victims were (Genesis 15:10).

Also see: Burnt Offerings

More information

Article Version: June 4, 2021