[Heb., ʼay·yahʹ, “black kite”; da·ʼahʹ, “red kite”; and perhaps day·yahʹ, “glede,” likely a variety of kite].
The kite is a bird of prey and scavenger combined. Both the black kite and the red kite, the common varieties found in Palestine, are included among the unclean birds according to the Law. (Lev. 11:13, 14; Deut. 14:12, 13) The Deuteronomy list contains ra·ʼahʹ in place of da·ʼahʹ as in Leviticus, but this is considered as probably due to a scribal substitution of the Hebrew equivalent of “r” (ר) for “d” (ד), the letters being very similar in appearance.
The Hebrew name ʼay·yahʹ is believed to be in imitation of the piercing cry of the black kite (classified by ornithonlogists as Milvus migrans).
The original meaning of the Hebrew name da·ʼahʹ is uncertain, but it is suggested that it indicates a “swooping or darting flight,” as in the expression “he came darting [from Heb. da·ʼahʹ] upon the wings of a spirit” (Ps. 18:10), and in references to the ‘pouncing’ of the eagle. (Deut 28:49; Jer. 48:40; 49:22) The name thus points to a bird of prey, and Koehler and Baumgartner (Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, p. 198) suggest the red kite (Milvus milvus).
The kite is of the same family as the hawks and falcons and is described as a slender-bodied hawk. A medium-sized bird measuring about twenty-three inches (c. 58 centimeters) in length, the kite has a wingspread of some three feet (1 meter). Its gliding flight is remarkably graceful and effortless and the bird uses its distinctive long forked tail as a rudder to steer through its wheeling and swooping aerial maneuvers.
Though feeding on small rodents and reptiles, the kite as found in the East is a scavenger, often congregating around villages or cities, where the birds attack any offal or carcasses available. Though it has the characteristic hooked beak of the bird of prey, the kite’s talons do not have the power of the eagle’s or falcon’s but are comparatively weak, like those of the carrion-eating vulture. Job uses the black kite as an example of superior sharp-sightedness, while showing that man’s ingenuity and search for wealth leads him into underground paths that even the farseeing birds of prey cannot see.—Job 28:7.
The black kite arrives in Palestine in March, having spent the winter in Africa. It is very common in Egypt and may well have been one of the birds Joseph foretold would eat the dead body of Pharaoh’s executed chief baker. (Gen. 40:19) It is represented in Egyptian paintings and even appears among the hieroglyphic characters. During their season in Palestine the black kites range the country in large numbers, building their nests in the forks of trees, or on the ledges of city buildings, often including strips of cloth in the nest-building materials.
The red kite, which is found in Palestine even during the winter months, is a reddish-brown bird, barred with black, with a grayish-white head. In England, where the bird also migrates, the name “glede” was applied to it due to its gliding flight. The paper kite used by young boys in play also derives its English name from these soaring birds.
[Picture on page 1010]
Red kite, with long forked tail and hooked beak