I'm not Jewish, but I'm sort of curious about something:

So, the requirements for water-dwelling creatures to be kosher is to A: have scales, and B: have fins. While they may not be kosher to eat as birds (as another question on this site addressed), since they're fish-eating birds like seagulls, shouldn't they qualify as kosher sea-dwelling creatures, since they have both scales (on their feet, like most birds) and fins (their wings/flippers)?

  • @mbloch Yep, that's the argument for why they aren't kosher as birds, but it doesn't address their status as scaled, fimned sea creatures.
    – nick012000
    Jun 5, 2023 at 10:57
  • sefaria.org.il/sheets/205368?lang=bi
    – bondonk
    Jun 5, 2023 at 11:29
  • 1
    Even if theyd be kosher as fish, the are probably still at least safek birds.
    – Double AA
    Jun 5, 2023 at 13:18
  • Are the scales on their feet removable without tearing the skin? If not, then they don't count as scales for halachic purposes anyway (Shulchan Aruch, YD 83:1).
    – Meir
    Jun 5, 2023 at 14:50

2 Answers 2


The Mishnah (Keilim 17:13) says that the creature called “dog of the sea” - which lives mainly in the sea, but will emerge onto land when escaping predators - is not considered a sea creature.

so it would seem that penguins too - who live also on land, and need to “escape” the water in order to get oxygen, (and possibly also to escape predators) - wouldn’t be considered full fledged sea creatures

Also, the Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Dei’ah 83:6-8) rules according to the Rambam (laws of forbidden foods 2:12), who seemingly holds that a sea creature that is not a fish is never Kosher - even if it has fins and scales - although there are those who disagree (such as the Pri Chadach and the Chasam Sofer)

  • Maimonedes's opinion leads to a definition problem. What is a fish? What we would call a fish today? Or what would be called a fish in his time? Or what would be called a fish in Moses's time? The opinion of "fins and scales" is presumably meant to solve this exact problem by saying a fish is anything with fins and scales.
    – The Z
    Jun 5, 2023 at 15:40
  • The description of “the dog of the sea” sounds more like seals or sea otters than penguins. They also look like dogs facially. Penguins also have a beak, not a snout. Jun 7, 2023 at 11:45

Penguins are birds. Just because they swim, they're not suddenly sea creatures. That's like calling an octopus a mammal because they can temporarily be on land.

Penguin scales are not fish scales. Penguin scales are more like calluses, or even just a leathery texture. They're not armor scales like fish have. In addition, the fact that their wings are round and sometimes used to swim, does not make them fins.

And one more thing--fish scales have to be removable for the fish to be kosher. So even if you were to ignore everything else in this answer, penguins still wouldn't be kosher.

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