There are only a few animals that live harmoniously alongside humans in urban habitats. One of these animals are birds. Like cats, history treated birds in extremes. People either worshipped them as gods or persecuted as pestilence. For example, ancient Egyptians personified many of their major gods as birds, but in modern times, birds such as pigeons and crows have increasingly become a nuisance to city dwellers. Industrialization and deforestation have also become a significant threat to their existence. However, there was a time in medieval history when people openly accepted birds.
Today, however, we can definitely say that the Middle East still has a soft spot for our feathered friends. For example, Arabs have a great demand for falcons, as they see them as precious birds. They are symbols of courage and force. Arab countries have used falcons for centuries to catch prey or for sports. Falconry is the favorite sport on the Arabian Peninsula; in fact, Arabs often call these birds the “hunting dogs of the skies”.
Nevertheless, it’s not only about falcons in the Arab world. Surely, you are familiar with owls. This large order of around 234 species spreads are everywhere around the world and can be found on every continent except for Antarctica. Despite the existence of such a big number of species, the Arabian Peninsula is host to a relatively small number of owls that are considered either resident, transient or migrant. Still, these charismatic birds have left their mark in the region. In some Middle Eastern cultures, owls are often associated with death and are said to represent the souls of those who have died. For this reason, owls are often considered bad luck, but this perception may be changing, particularly among the region’s farmers. Incredibly effective predators who are specially adapted for night hunting, owls offer great environmental services for humans, reducing the population growth of rodents.
Islamic scriptures also make numerous references to birds, even noting the role of the creatures during the “Year of the Elephant”. In one case, the mysterious ability of birds to fly is offered as proof of God’s existence.
Moreover, nowadays, if you walk around the streets of an Arab country, you will see cages of parakeets and canaries at the entrance of some shops and restaurants.
|Bird in Arabic||ta’er||طائِر|
|Duck in Arabic||battah||بَطّة|
|Pigeon in Arabic||hamamah||حمامة|
|Parrot in Arabic||babagha’||ببغاء|
|Nightingale in Arabic||bolbool||بلبل|
|Rooster in Arabic||deek||ديك|
|Hen in Arabic||dajajah||دجاجة|
|Swallow in Arabic||sonono||سنونو|
|Peacock in Arabic||tawoos||طاووس|
|Crow in Arabic||ghorab||غُراب|
|Turkey in Arabic||deek habash||ديك حبش|
|Falcon in Arabic||saqr||صقر|
|Stork in Arabic||laqlaq||لقلق|
|Eagle in Arabic||nisser||نِسر|
|Ostrich in Arabic||na’ameh||نعامة|
|Hoopoe in Arabic||hodhod||هُدهُد|
|Goose in Arabic||wazzah||وَزّة|
As stated before, there is a clear admiration of birds in the Middle East and perhaps we should make extended efforts to preserve their presence so that future generations have the opportunity to see the many variations of our winged friends.
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