Laws of Religion
Laws of Judaism Concerning Food
from the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)
and the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)
From the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)
Clean* birds are permitted for eating. Birds that are an abomination and shall not be eaten are the eagle, the vulture (or ossifrage), the buzzard (or ospray), the glede the falcon, the kite, every raven, the ostrich (or owl), the night-hawk, the seagull, the hawk, various types of owl, the swan, the pelican, the carrion vulture, the stork, the heron, the hoopoe and the bat. (Editor’s note: Different translations use different names for many of these birds because the exact meaning of the original Hebrew is not known. The bat, however, is identified as a bird in all translations although bats are mammals, not birds.)
Jewish Law (Halakha) from the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)
All birds are permitted for eating other than the 24 listed in the Torah as prohibited. There are procedures, described by Maimonides, for identifying clean* and unclean species of birds for those who are not experts in bird identification.
Eating an unclean bird is a violation of both a positive (Deuteronomy 14:11) and a negative (Leviticus 11:13-19, Deuteronomy 14:12-18) commandment. Therefore, (since it violates a negative commandment) eating a quantity of a such an unclean bird equal to the size of an olive makes a person liable to flogging.
* We use the words "clean" and "unclean" to refer to animal species that are permitted (kosher) or forbidden for eating; other things or people are referred to as being "pure" or "impure" or, occasionally for more clarity, as "ritually pure" or "ritually impure." A separate section of this website is devoted solely to the issue of ritual purity in Judaism.
Abbreviations used in footnotes:
Gen: The Biblical book of Genesis.
Exod: The Biblical book of Exodus.
Lev: The Biblical book of Leviticus.
Num: The Biblical Book of Numbers.
Deut: The Biblical Book of Deuteronomy.
MT: The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (Code of Maimonides). The names of the specific books and treatises within each book are given according to the Yale University Press translation and also the Moznaim/Touger Hebrew transliterations to facilitate locating the texts posted here.
F: indicates page numbers in the Feldheim Publishers, Ltd., translation of Book 1 of the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Book of Knowledge.
M: indicates page numbers in the relevant volume of the Moznaim Publishing Corporation’s Touger translation. (Some of the books of Mishneh Torah are published in several volumes by Moznaim, so the Moznaim volume numbers do not correspond to the Book numbers of Maimonides’ work.)
Y: indicates page numbers in the translation of the Yale University Press Judaica Series.
● The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.
 Deut 14:11, Deut 14:20
 Lev 11:13, Deut 14:12
 Deut 14:13
 Lev 11:14, Deut 14:13
 Lev 11:15, Deut 14:14
 Lev 11:16, Deut 14:15
 Lev 11:17-18, Deut 14:16-17
 Lev 11:19, Deut 14:18
 MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 1, sec 14 (pages 286-288M 155Y)
 MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 1, secs 15-20, (pages 288-290M 156-157Y)
 MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 2, sec 4, (pages 294M 159Y)