Kite
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Source: Koninklijke Bibliotheek - Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Copyright 2002 Koninklijke Bibliotheek / Used by permission Manuscript description Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, KA 16, Folio 93v


 

Kite

Latin name: Milvus

Other names: Écoufle, Escouffle, Milan, Milvo

A rapacious bird that feeds on carrion

 

 
General Attributes

The kite is extremely rapacious, always flying near where meat is prepared so that it can quickly take any raw meat that is discarded. It also feeds on carrion. It is timid in large undertakings, but bold in small ones. It is not able to catch woodland birds, so it lies in wait for domestic birds and young birds. Kites sometimes carry cuckoos on their backs.


Allegory/Moral

The kite represents those who delight in carnal pleasures, especially those of the stomach. As the kite cannot catch wild birds and only hunts the weaker domestic ones, so the devil preys only on the weak in spirit.


Sources (chronological order)

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 12): Kites are of the same genus as hawks but are smaller. Though they are rapacious birds and are always hungry, they do not steal food at funerals or when it has been offered to the gods. (Book 10, 21): Kites do not normally drink, and it is a direful augery if one does so.

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 7:58): The kite (milvus) is soft in flight and strength, but it is a rapacious bird that is always hostile toward domestic birds.


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