Monday, 20 April 2009 07:13

The Hoopoe

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Our garden has been visited by this impressive bird for five or six years to date, missing (or at least not spotted) during the summer of 2008.

The male is about 30 cm long, with a black and white tipped crest and a highly distinctive long, thin tapering bill that is black with a fawn base. We have been lucky to have a pair of these birds, that we assume to be a breeding pair. The Hoopoe is reportedly monogamous, although the pair bond apparently only lasts for a single season. We are not sufficiently expert to know if the male in our garden arrives with a new partner some years, but we like to think it’s the same pair. Usually the first sighting is during April, and from then they are frequently seen until they migrate in the autumn to winter in Africa, south of Sahara. The hoopoe has a characteristic undulating flight that has been compared to that of a giant butterfly. Their song is a far-carrying, soft, resonant "hoo-hoo-hoo", which gives rise to their name. The crest is depressed when at rest, but erected when excited or alarmed and for a moment on settling.

Hoopoes favour open country and clumps of old trees including pollard willows, meadows orchards and olive plantations. They feed mainly on the ground, walking with ease (and even running) with accompanying movement of head. They are often to be seen feeding on lawns and are not too worried about humans at a reasonable distance. They usually nest in a hole in a tree or wall. I have found a design for a nesting box, and intend making one in the autumn. Apparently hoopoes take readily to nesting boxes.




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