As we have learned, unlike other animals, the Torah does not offer clear indicators that allow us to recognize which birds are kosher, rather it offers a list of 24 non-kosher birds (see above, daf 61). On today’s daf Rabbi suggests that the reason for this is because there are many more kosher birds in the world than non-kosher birds; it was therefore simpler to list the few birds that are not kosher, leaving us to understand that all the rest could be used in the kosher kitchen.
The challenge, of course, is whether we can accurately identify all of the birds that appear in the Biblical list.
While the Mishna above teaches that there are certain indicators of kosher birds, on today’s daf Rabbi Yitzḥak notes that there is another reliable method of identifying a kosher bird, that of massoret – tradition. He further teaches that a hunter is believed when he says that his teacher handed down a tradition to him that a given bird is kosher. Rabbi Yoḥanan limits this, however, to people who show that they are familiar with the different birds and their names.
Rashi explains that the tradition can be from a teacher or from a parent, and can even be based on the hunter’s memory of what his father ate. In situations such as these the tradition is trusted as reliable and there is no need to look for the indicators that the Sages established to recognize a kosher bird (see above, daf 61) and even if none of those indicators are found this bird is acceptable based on the massoret. The Shakh rules, however, that if the bird is found to have the indicator that it is not kosher, e.g. it is found to be a bird of prey, then we must conclude that the tradition was mistaken and the bird is deemed unkosher.
With the passage of time and development of commercial kashrut, many traditions regarding kosher foods are being forgotten. A number of committed scholars have devoted themselves to locating and reestablishing these traditions (see, for example, http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Features/Article.aspx?id=183049)