Lev 11:13,19—And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls… the lapwing

The Hebrew word translated ‘lapwing’ is dukiphath and nearly all biblical naturalists and commentators agree that it refers to the hoopoe—so called because of the ‘hoop’ sound of its cry.

It is a colourful bird and is noted for its rapid, irregular flight—upwards, downwards and in circles. Such flight patterns make them fast and manoeuvrable, in pursuit of numerous swarming insects.

The hoopoe emits an exceedingly pungent and disagreeable odour which fills the nest when it wishes to ward off enemies. The smell in question proceeds from a substance secreted from the tail-glands of the bird. Despite this, the bird is a peculiarly conspicuous one, showing off its plumage and beautiful crest and bobbing its head up and down to attract attention.

It is a solitary forager, which typically feeds on the ground and is in the habit of raking about in very unsavoury places in search of insects. It is known to beat large beetles into a soft mass before eating them.

Chases and fights between rival males (and sometimes females) are common and can be brutal. They will even try to stab rivals with their bills, and individuals are occasionally blinded in fights.

Its repulsive habits, its undesirable stench, its focus on the ground and its ‘look-at-me’ antics all make it represent a symbol of the works of the flesh and therefore unclean in God’s eyes.

Ironically, in 2008, the hoopoe was chosen by national ballot to become the national bird of Israel.

By Artemy Voikhansky – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32675550