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English Bible Dictionary

Pelican

 

(Heb. kaath, sometimes translated "cormorant," as (Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14) though in the margin correctly rendered "pelican"), a voracious waterbird, found most abundantly in tropical regions. It is equal to the swan in size. (It has a flat bill fifteen inches long, and the female has under the bill a pouch capable of great distension. It is capacious enough to hold fish sufficient for the dinner of half a dozen men. The young are fed from this pouch, which is emptied of the food by pressing the pouch against the breast, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The pelican's bill has a crimson tip, and the contrast of this red tip against the white breast probably gave rise to the tradition that the bird tore her own breast to feed her young with her blood. The flesh of the pelican was forbidden to the Jews. (Leviticus 11:18)--ED.) The psalmist in comparing his pitiable condition to the pelican, (Psalms 102:6) probably has reference to its general aspect as it sits in apparent melancholy mood, with its bill resting on its breast.

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