Nest of the Hoopoe

Including the Bird's Appearance and Habits

» The Hoopoe, its Habitat and Range
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The Hoopoe's Appearance

The hoopoe is a peculiarly conspicuous bird, not only on account of its boldly-barred plumage and its beautiful crest, but by its cry and its gestures. It has a way of elevating and depressing its crest, and bobbing its head up and down, in a manner which could not fail to attract the attention even of the most incurious, the whole aspect and expression of the bird varying with the raising and depressing of the crest.

About the size of a Thrush, with a long, pointed, and slightly arched bill, its head and neck are a golden-buff color, the head being adorned by the crest, which begins to rise from the forehead. The crest itself consists of broad feathers, gradually increasing in length, tipped with black, and having a subterminal bar of yellowish-white. The upper part of the back is a wine-grey color, and the scapulars and flight-feathers are black, broadly barred with white, tinged in the former with buff. The tail is black with a white chevron, marking off about the distal third part of its length. The legs and feet are as adapted well for running or walking, as well as for perching. The scutellations are continued round the whole of the tarsi.

Hoopoe Perching
Hoopoe Perching above a River


Nest and Habits of the Hoopoe

Pleasing as is the beauty of this bird as it fearlessly parades its showy plumage, its habits are very much the opposite. The hoopoe (scientific name Upupa epops) has always had rather an ill reputation, and, whether in Europe or Asia, its presence seems to be regarded by the ignorant with a kind of superstitious aversion. This seemingly universal distaste for the Hoopoe is probably caused by an exceedingly pungent and disagreeable odour which fills the nest of the bird, and which can be passed for a considerable time to anyone's hand if they touch the bird's eggs.

Where it breeds, its nest, usually in the hollow of a tree or of a wall, (and having therefore little of the thorough ventillation which is found in nearly all nests which are built on boughs and sprays), is not only partly composed of quite foul material, but its condition becomes worse as incubation proceeds.  In many areas, however, hollow trees cannot be found, and in that case the Hoopoe resorts to clefts in the rock, or even to holes in old ruins.  The hen hardly ever leaves her eggs, being diligently fed by the cock as she sits; and when the young birds are hatched, their faeces are not removed by their parents (this was denied by Naumann, but this statement has been confirmed by many eye-witnesses) as is the case with most birds, but are disposed of in the immediate neighbourhood of the nest, the unsanitary condition of which is easily imaginable.

A significant part of the odour however comes from a substance secreted from the tail-glands of the Hoopoe, and is not due, as was long supposed, to the food which was brought to the nest.
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