We’ve talked about the kashrut rules about animals on land, now let’s talk about animals in the sky. The topic is a bit more complicated as there are no rules given (there are some in the Talmud, but they are a bit unclear and rather indications than signs). The only thing given in the Torah itself is a list of forbidden birds (in two slightly different versions):
And these ye shall have in detestation among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are a detestable thing: the great vulture, and the bearded vulture, and the osprey;
and the kite, and the falcon after its kinds;
every raven after its kinds;
and the ostrich, and the night-hawk, and the sea-mew, and the hawk after its kinds;
and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl;
and the horned owl, and the pelican, and the carrion-vulture;
and the stork, and the heron after its kinds, and the hoopoe, and the bat.
(Leviticus / Vayikra 11:13-19, the other version with a few differences is in Deuteronomy / Devarim 14:11-18)
So in theory this is good news, apart from these few birds we can eat all others! But unfortunately there is a problem. The identity of most of these birds is unknown or at least debated. Don’t be fooled by the given English names. Over time the exact meaning of the Hebrew words has been lost and we don’t know which species they refer to (Wikipedia on kosher birds, R. Jack Abramowitz: 157. Chicken!: The prohibition against eating non-kosher birds).
So if we don’t know what the non-kosher birds species are, what can we eat? How can we be sure any bird is not on this list? Well, we can eat every bird that we have a tradition for that it is kosher. This is the knowledge passed down from a time where people spoke ancient Hebrew and knew exactly which birds the Torah tells them to avoid.
So which birds are these? Well, these are the typical ones you will likely find in your local kosher shop:
- Chicken (what would Judaism be without chicken soup?!)
- Dove / pidgeon (OU: The Perfect Pet of the Pentateuch: Pigeon)
- Turkey (a fascinating story actually! See R. Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Zohar Amar: The Halachic Tale of Three American Birds: Turkey, Prairie Chicken, and Muscovy Duck)
A few more birds that you might not find in a store, but that are still kosher as some communities have traditions about them. The hunt for traditions of the Jewish communities is ongoing, so expect a few birds added to this list in the future. This is what I was able to find for now:
- Muscovy Duck (debated, R. Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Zohar Amar: The Halachic Tale of Three American Birds: Turkey, Prairie Chicken, and Muscovy Duck)
- Pheasant (R. Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Dr. Ari Greenspan: Living the Law, Reinforcing the Tradition with a Palpable Precedent)
- Guinea Fowl (R. Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Dr. Ari Greenspan: Living the Law, Reinforcing the Tradition with a Palpable Precedent)
- Partridge (R. Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Dr. Ari Greenspan: Living the Law, Reinforcing the Tradition with a Palpable Precedent)
- Quail (OU: The Intricacies of Quail, OU: The Birds of the Bible, or, Solving the Mystery of Which of the Species are Kosher and which are not)
- Sparrow (OU: OU Position on Certifying Specific Animals and Birds)
- Swallow (Map of kosher animals worldwide)
Fowl has to be slaughtered and prepared according to the same laws as other meat. Their meat is forbidden to eat with milk, just like the meat of land animals. The eggs of kosher birds are themselves kosher, those of nonkosher birds are not kosher.