Shuchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 292:1 rules that the commandment of shiluach hakan applies only to birds which are tahor, a kosher species. The meforshim explain that the Torah say tzipor which only refers to kosher birds.

Most birds are, technically speaking, kosher (or of a kosher species/tahor). The Torah lists 22 some odd exceptions which are prohibited but insofar as we do not have a mesorah (tradition) identifying the 22 un-tahor birds we only eat birds which have an affirmative tradition that they ARE kosher/tahor.

If one chances upon a bird which does not have any of the simanim (indicators) which Chazal associate with a non-tahor bird but which we do not have an affirmative tradition that they are kosher, does one fulfill the mitzvah of shiluach haken?

In other words according to those who rule that one MUST send away the mother bird even if one doesn't need the eggs/chicks is one obligated to do so when one finds a potentially tahor mother bird?

Or according to the other authorities if I have a need for such eggs (other than to eat since they are forbidden because of their questionable status) am I obligated to send away the mother bird even though she may not be kosher?

Aren't these cases where we say safek d'Oraisa l'chumrah, conversely similar to our being strict not to eat them?

1 Answer 1


I'm pretty sure that we try and do shiluach haken with any bird we reasonably think might be kosher (robin, finch, cardinal, etc.); even if we're not positive enough to eat it, on the (good) chance that it is a kosher species, we should do shiluach haken.

While I could be mistaken, I've never heard of a shiluach haken story where someone stopped to examine the bird species.

So yes, "kosher species" vis-a-vis shiluach haken means "any species not listed in the Torah as non-kosher"; it doesn't mean "a species that you actually eat today." (See this article (pp 14-17 of the PDF) for that list. Did you know that sparrows are fully kosher?)

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