(Cor’mo·rant) [Heb., sha·lakhʹ, plunger].
This bird appears only in the list of unclean birds under the Mosaic law, a list that prohibits the eating of birds most of which basically are birds of prey and carrion eaters, although there appear to be exceptions, such as the hoopoe and the swan. (Lev. 11:17; Deut. 14:17) The verb from which the name is drawn means “to throw, fling or cast”; thus the Egyptian fishers at the Nile are de-scribed as “casting [from Heb., sha·lakhʹ] fishhooks” into the river. (Isa. 19:8) The translators of the Greek Septuagint understood the bird to be the ka·ta·raʹktes, the Greek name of a bird that dives into the water and swims in pursuit of fish, while the Latin Vulgate uses mergulus (the “diver”) to indicate the bird. It, therefore seems evident that some fish-eating, diving bird is represented by the Hebrew term, and most translations consider the cormorant to be the most likely type, since it is quite common in Palestine, particularly along the Mediterranean coast and also in certain inland waters such as the Sea of Galilee. A smaller “pygmy cormorant,” though not so frequent, is to be found along lakes and rivers.
The cormorant is of the pelican family and somewhat resembles a duck. Usually long bodied and dark colored, the cormorant is swift and agile in the water, swimming under water mainly by use of its webbed feet but also at times employing its relatively long wings in darting after its prey. Its sharp, hooked beak makes it a splendid fisher, and from ancient times cormorants have been trained by fishermen in the Orient and parts of India to catch fish for their owners, a band being placed fairly loosely around the bird’s throat to prevent it from swallowing anything but very small fish. One observer describes the bird as seen sitting on a tree in the area where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea and satisfying its voracious appetite by swooping down into the water to catch fish that are dazed by being carried into the salty sea.
[Picture on page 381]