se'-mu (shachaph; laros; Latin, Larus canus):
The sea-gull. Used by modern translators in the list of abominations in the place of the cuckoo (Leviticus 11:16; Deuteronomy 14:15). It is very probable that the sea-gull comes closer to the bird intended than the CUCKOO (which see). The sea-gull is a "slender" bird, but not "lean" as the root shachaph implies. However, with its stretch of wing and restless flight it gives this impression. Gulls are common all along the Mediterranean coast and around the Sea of Galilee. They are thought to have more intelligence than the average bird, and to share with some eagles, hawks, vultures and the raven the knowledge that if they find mollusk they cannot break they can carry it aloft and drop it on the rocks. Only a wise bird learns this. Most feathered creatures pick at an unyielding surface a few times and then seek food elsewhere. There are two reasons why these birds went on the abomination lists. To a steady diet of fish they add carrion. Then they are birds of such nervous energy, so exhaustless in flight, so daring in flying directly into the face of fierce winds, that the Moslems believed them to be tenanted with the souls of the damned. Moses was reared and educated among the Egyptians, and the laws he formulated often are tinged by traces of his early life. History fails to record any instance of a man reared in Egypt who permitted the killing of a gull, ibis, or hoopoe.
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