Ossifrage (see Vulture).
Bone-breaker; in Hebrew Peries, to break; an unclean bird of the eagle family, Le 11:13 De 14:12. Some interpreters think the vulture is intended; others, a mountain bird like the lammergeyer of the Alps, which breaks the bones of wild goats by hunting them over precipices.
Heb. peres = to “break” or “crush”, the lammer-geier, or bearded vulture, the largest of the whole vulture tribe. It was an unclean bird (Lev. 11:13; Deut. 14:12). It is not a gregarious bird, and is found but rarely in Palestine. “When the other vultures have picked the flesh off any animal, he comes in at the end of the feast, and swallows the bones, or breaks them, and swallows the pieces if he cannot otherwise extract the marrow. The bones he cracks [hence the appropriateness of the name ossifrage, i.e., “bone-breaker”] by letting them fall on a rock from a great height. He does not, however, confine himself to these delicacies, but whenever he has an opportunity will devour lambs, kids, or hares. These he generally obtains by pushing them over cliffs, when he has watched his opportunity; and he has been known to attack men while climbing rocks, and dash them against the bottom. But tortoises and serpents are his ordinary food…No doubt it was a lammer-geier that mistook the bald head of the poet AEschylus for a stone, and dropped on it the tortoise which killed him” (Tristram’s Nat. Hist.).
(See OSPRAY OSPREY) The most powerful bird of prey in our hemisphere. He pushes kids, lambs, hares, calves, and even men off the rocks, and takes the bones of animals high up in the air, and lets them fall on stones to crack them and render them more digestible. The vulture proper has a bald head and neck, a provision against the dirting of the feathers of birds which plunge the head into putrefying carcasses. But the ossifrage has its head and neck feathered and a beard of black hair under the beak. The plumage of the head and neck is dirty white, with a black stripe through the eye; the back, wings, and tail are brown, the parts underneath are fawn-colored.
os’-i-fraj (perec; gups; Let Ossifraga): The great bearded vulture known as the lammer-geier (Lev 11:13; Deut 14:12 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) “gier-eagle”). The Hebrew name perec means “to break.” Let oasis, “bone,” and frangere, “to break,” indicate the most noticeable habit of the bird. It is the largest of the vulture family, being 3 1/2 ft. in length and 10 in sweep. It has a white head, black beard on the chin, and the part of the eye commonly called the “white” in most animals, which is visible in but few birds, in this family is pronounced and of a deep angry red, thus giving the bird a formidable appearance. The back is grayish black, the feathers finely penciled, the shaft being white, the median line tawny. The under parts are tawny white and the feet and talons powerful. It differs from the vulture in that it is not a consistent carrion feeder, but prefers to take prey of the size captured by some of the largest eagles. It took its name from the fact that after smaller vultures and eagles had stripped a carcass to the last shred of muscle, the lammergeier then carried the skeleton aloft and dropped it repeatedly until the marrow from the broken bones could be eaten. It is also very fond of tortoise, the meat of which it secures in the same manner. As this bird frequents Southern Europe, it is thought to be the one that mistook the bald head of Aeschylus, the poet, for a stone and let fall on it the tortoise that caused his death. This bird also attacks living prey of the size of lambs, kids and hares. It is not numerous and does not flock, but pairs live in deep gorges and rocky crevices. It builds an enormous nest, deposits one pinkish or yellowish egg, and the young is black. It requires two years to develop the red eyes, finely penciled plumage and white head of the adult bird. It was included among the abominations because of its diet of carrion.
The Hebrew is peres, which signifies ‘breaking,’ and ossifrage signifies ‘bone breaker.’ This has led to the identifying the bird with the one now known as the Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), which is a species of vulture, though it has the appearance of an eagle its neck being covered with feathers. It attacks a carcase when the vultures have finished: picks the bones, and then breaks them to feed upon the marrow. It does this by carrying them up to a height and letting them fall upon a stone or rock till they break. The shells of tortoises are broken in the same way by them. In the Levitical economy it was an unclean bird. Lev. 11:13; Deut. 14:12.