Hoopoe

Upupa epops

25-28cm

Appearance

Has a distinctive pinkish crest that is raised when excited. Appearance is striking; body is pinkish-brown and the wings and back have vivid black and white barring. The neck is long, the bill down-curved and when in flight, the rump is white. Juveniles are similar although the markings are less distinct, and the white barring is more of a creamy colour.

Habitat

Prefers to feed on areas of dirt or areas where the grass is quite short. When in the south of Europe, it tends towards open countryside with some trees, and breeding takes place in orchards, groves, the margins of woodlands or sometimes near gentle waterways.

Character

Mostly feeds on the ground where its plumage makes for a surprising camouflage. It appears to almost shut its wings with every beat when in the air. The crest raises when the bird is excited and also during the landing process. When in the region it is usually seen alone.

Food

Food is hunted from the soil using its long bill. Diet includes crickets, beetles, ants, flies, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, slugs, snails and sometimes small reptiles.

Breeding

Rarely breeds in the region. Female lays 7 or 8 eggs and incubates them for 15-16 days, and the eggs hatch over a few days. Male provides food initially, then both parents hunt for the young; they continue to do this beyond when the young can fly at about 26-29 days old.

Population

This is a scant but regular visitor. Populations from the north usually spend winter in Africa, while those from further south may be resident in Spain or Portugal. About 100 birds reach Britain each year, mostly arriving in April or May.

Observation Tips

The Scilly Isles are a favourite spot of the species in spring or autumn, and other passage coastal spots can be found in the south of England. Birds may remain at good feeding sights for a few days.

Voice

Utters a gentle but far-reaching 'hoo-poo-poo' call.
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