The Eurasian hoopoe is found in a wide area across Africa, Europe and Asia.
They are notable due to the striking black and white pattern of feathers on the wings and the crown of orange feathers which rises above the head.
Running outward from the head is the long, thin bill which is used to probe the ground looking for insects.
In their nest they are recognized by the foul smell likened to rotting meat which is produced by glands on the female. This is used to defend the nest against predators.
They are hunted to supply the live trade and fuel the medicine trade.
Learn more about these brilliant birds by reading on below.
Across their body the Eurasian hoopoe is primarily a pale buff color which becomes more orange on the crown. There is a black edge to the feathers on the crown which can be raised to form a crest. When in flight this is held against the head and on landing it is often raised. Across the upper and underside of the wings are black and white bands of feathers.
Protruding from the head is a lengthy, thin bill which curves downward as it goes along. This is colored blackish along its length and is paler at the base.
Their eye is colored dark brown with the legs and feet being grey.
The male and the female share a similar appearance.
An average Eurasian hoopoe will measure 29cm (11in) long with a wingspan of 42-46cm (16.5-18in) across. They weigh 75g (2.7oz).
Eurasian hoopoes are carnivores. Their diet is primarily made up of insects. This is supplemented with small reptiles and frogs. Seeds and berries may also be taken.
Their long bill is used to probe in to the ground and insects can then either be brought out of the ground by the beak or by digging down with their feet.
Much of their time is spent on the ground looking for food. They may also take food while in flight.
Small prey items are swallowed whole. Larger items may be beaten against a stone to help remove parts which can not be digested.
Eurasian hoopoe are found across a wide area covering Asia, Africa and Europe. Here they can be found across much of these continents. Vagrants have also been reported from the United States.
Their extremely broad range means they are found in a wide variety of habitats. These include pasture, dry wooded savanna, steppe and olive groves.
They may live in human altered habitats such as parkland, orchards and vineyards. Often they will live near humans in villages.
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Eurasian hoopoes are considered monogamous. During their courtship the male will chase the female and they will feed one another. While they are monogamous these pair bonds often last for a single season.
They will form their nest in a natural hole within a stump, tree, wall, building and cliff. They may make use of human provided nest sites such as abandoned vehicles, drainpipes, roof spaces and nest boxes. The same nest can be used for multiple seasons.
Nests can be either unlined or lined with moss, grass, leaves and pine needles.
In to this nest the female will deposit between seven and eight eggs which are colored whitish to yellowish-olive.
Females undertake all of the incubation while the male will bring her food. This takes 15 to 18 days.
To protect the eggs the female will produce a foul-smelling liquid from a gland. This smells like rotting meat and works to deter predators and parasites from attacking the nest.
At hatching the chicks have a covering of downy feathers. The young are brooded for 9-14 days and after this the female will help the male to gather food for the chicks.
They fledge after 26-29 days and then spend a further week with their parents.
Their wide range means that some populations are migratory while others remain in the same area year round.
Eurasian hoopoes will sit and stretch their wings out facing the sun to sunbathe. Occasionally they will fold their wings during this time and preen.
To keep their feathers in good condition they will take a dust or sand bath.
Following the breeding season the adults will molt their old feathers.
Male Eurasian hoopoes will work hard to defend a territory. Males regularly call to advertise that they own the territory. Often these involve fights and males will occasionally blind one another by stabbing with their beak.
Predators and Threats
Hunting is a major threat to the Eurasian hoopoe. This takes place to supply the live trade to fuel demand for medicinal products.
Access to and the quality of food along with the availability of nesting sites has impacted the population of the Eurasian hoopoe.
While considered to be declining the Eurasian hoopoe population is currently estimated to include 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 individuals.
The Eurasian hoopoe is also known as the common hoopoe.
The name hoopoe is derived from their “hoo, hoo” call.
Israel list the hoopoe as their national bird.
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Alexandr frolov, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Thai National Parks. 2021. Upupa epops, Eurasian hoopoe. [online] Available at: <https://www.thainationalparks.com/species/hoopoe> [Accessed 28 July 2021].
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