23 March 2012

Common Hoopoe

I’ve sighted the Common Hoopoe (Upupa Epops) several times recently on my evenings walk at the Samudram Erie. It’s a very elegant, beautiful bird that somehow looks much too grand for the parched scrubland of the area.

Adult Bird

The Hoopoe is found throughout India and is the State bird of the Punjab. It is a highly distinctive bird that has made a cultural impact in many cultures. They were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt and named as the King of birds in the Ancient Greek comedy ‘The Birds’ by Aristophanes. On the one hand this bird is listed in the Bible as among animals that are detestable and should not be eaten (for which they are probably delighted!) but on the other hand in Persia the Hoopoe is believed to be a symbol of virtue.

Adult with Juvenile

This bird is the same size as the Mynah. It is fawn coloured with black and white zebra markings on its back, wings and tail. It has a conspicuous fan-shaped crest, and a long, slender, gently curved bill. The sexes are alike and are to be found either singly or in pairs on the ground in lightly-wooded country. It is also fond of lawns, gardens and groves around villages and towns.

Bird Grooming

This bird walks and runs with a wadding, quail-like gait. The Hoopoe has a characteristic undulating flight which is like that of a giant butterfly caused by the wings half closing at the end of each beat or short sequence of beats.

It has a soft, musical, penetrating, ‘hoo-po’ repeated intermittently for up to 10 minutes at a time. It is from this call, that the bird has acquired its name i.e. the Hoopoe. This bird also makes other calls include rasping croaks and hisses. A wheezy note is produced by females during courtship feeding by the male.

Birds Mating

In what was long thought to be a defensive posture, Hoopoes sunbathe by spreading out their wings with tail low against the ground and headed tilted up, with wings folded. The Hoopoe is known to enjoy taking dust and sand baths.

Dust Bath

The diet of this bird includes many species considered to be pests by humans; for example the pupae of the processionary moth, a damaging forest pest. As this bird is regarded as highly beneficial to agriculture it is afforded protection under the law in many countries. The modification of natural habitats by humans for various agricultural purposes has led the Hoopoe to becoming common in olive groves, orchards, vineyards, parkland and farmland, and less common in intensively farmed areas.

Bird with Prey

The Hoopoe probes into the soil for food with its bill partly open like forceps. When digging, its crest is folded back and projects in a point behind the head. The strengthened musculature of the head allows the bill to be opened when probing inside the soil.

Eating Underground

The Hoopoe nests principally from February to May in a cavity on a vertical slope such as a tree hollow, hole in a wall or a building. It lines its next untidily with straw, rags and rubbish and lays around 5 or 6 white eggs. Both sexes share in feeding the young.

Hoopoe Video

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