The Hoopoe
March 1, 2023
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Stacks Image 326268

Hoopoe (Photo by David Cloud)

The hoopoe (pronounced hoo-pō) is Israel’s national bird. It was chosen in 2008 by a survey of 155,000 citizens.

The bird gets its name from its mating call (oop-oop-oop or hoo-hoo-hoo or pu-pu-put).

The Hebrew name for the hoopoe is the
duchifat. The French name is huppee, meaning crested.

It is beautiful bird with a tiger stripe pattern on its wings and long tail, a pinkish-brown or beige neck and belly, and a distinct crown of pinkish-brown feathers tipped with black and white. The crown normally lies flat, but is raised from time to time. In flight, the hoopoe is a dazzling blur of color. Its wings only close part way and “wave in a pattern similar to a butterfly.” When feeding its chicks, it can hover something like a hummingbird.

Its short legs and long, curved, pointed bill are perfect equipment for its habit of feeding on insects on the ground or under the surface. It probes the earth in search of larvae. “A strengthened musculature of the head allows the bill to be opened when probing the soil.”

The hoopoe nests in a hole in a tree, wall, crag, barn, rooftop, wood pile, etc. The female incubates the eggs, and the male feeds her.

It is found across Africa, Asia, and Europe. Scientists divide the hoopoe into two major groups (Upupa epops - Europe, and Upupa Africana), and subgroups, but the differences are slight and until recently they were grouped into one species. I have seen this bird in Kathmandu, Nepal, and it was sighted flying at 21,000 feet over the Himalayas (
Compact Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan, Oxford University Press).

It is known as a stinky bird because the nesting female produces a foul-smelling liquid with its uropygial gland (preen or oil gland) that deters predators and possibly acts as an antibacterial agent for the chicks. The foul liquid that she spreads on the eggs and nest seems to work well in deterring predators like birds, cats, and snakes.

The hoopoe gets most of its water from its food.

Not very shy, the hoopoe can be photographed fairly easily.

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