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Eurasian Hoopoe/ Upupa epops

Hoopoes are distinctive thrush-sized birds with striking black, white and pinkish plumage. Their round-ended wings and tail are black and white. Head, neck, upper back, and underparts pinkisht. They have large fan-like pinkish crests with black spots, which they can open out and close at will. Hoopoes have grey legs, blackish beaks and brown irises.

In spite of their striking appearance, they are able to conceal themselves readily if they feel threatened, and may be hard to observe. The Hoopoe is the only member of its family found in Europe.



Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Bucerotiformes

Family: Upupidae

Genus: Upupa

Species: Upupa epops


Upupa epops africana, Johann Matthäus Bechstein, 1811

Range: Central Africa to South Africa. Much more rufous than nominate

Upupa epops ceylonensis, Heinrich Gottlieb Ludwig Reichenbach, 1853

Range: Indian Subcontinent. Smaller than nominate, more rufous overall, no white in crest

Upupa epops epops (nominate), Carolus Linnaeus, 1758

Range: NW Africa, Canary Islands, and from Europe through to south central Russia, north west China and south to north west India

Upupa epops longirostris, Thomas Caverhill Jerdon, 1862

Range: South east Asia. Larger than nominate, pale

Upupa epops major, Christian Ludwig Brehm, 1855

Range: North east Africa – Larger than nominate, longer billed, narrower tailband, greyer upperparts

Upupa epops marginata, Jean Louis Cabanis & Ferdinand Heine, 1860

Range: Madagascar. Larger, much more pale than U. e. africana
Upupa epops saturata, Axel Johan Einar Lönnberg, 1909

Range: Japan, Siberia to Tibet and south China. As nominate, greyer mantle, less pink below
Upupa epops senegalensis, William John Swainson, 1913

Range: Senegal to Ethiopia. Smaller than nominate, shorter winged
Upupa epops waibeli, Anton Reichenow, 1913

Range: Cameroon through to north Kenya. As U. e. senegalensis but darker plumage and more white on wings
Species in same genus
Upupa epops, Eurasian hoopoe



Unique appearance. About the size of a large thrush. Broad wings and tail have black and white markings, head and breast pinkish. Has a long beak and a distinctive crest.



Length 25–29 cm, wingspan 44–48 cm, weight 70–85 g.



In a hollow tree, nest-box, or hole in a building. Made of grass, leaves, feathers and dried cattle dung.



Lays 5–7 eggs May–June. Only females incubate, for 16–18 days. Young able to fly within 26–32 days.
They may use the same nest for many years. Hoopoes have well-‐‐developed anti-•predator defenses in the nest. The uropygial gland of the incubating and brooding female is quickly modified to produce a foul-‐‐smelling liquid, is thought to help deter predators.



Found in farmland and parkland. Visits Finland regularly but is only known to have bred in the country once, near Pori in 1940. Hoopoes are not sociable birds are generally found in pairs or singular. It is notable for its distinctive “crown” of feathers. Most European and North Asian birds migrate to the tropics in winter.



Diurnal. May be seen any time from April to early December. Winters in Northern and Central Africa.



Invertebrates, especially flies and grubs found in cattle dung.
Hoopoes often eat frogs, small snakes, lizards and also seeds and berries in small quantities. They even use the bill to lever large stones and flake off the bark.



Territorial call a repetitive three-syllable “pu-pu-pu”, which carries a long way. Similar to call of Tengmalm’s owl.


The characteristic lengthy, slightly bent beak of the hoopoe allows it to forage through vegetation, dig into the ground to find insects to eat, and quickly feed nestlings mid-‐‐flight. They also use their beaks in territorial fights.


Relationship with humans:

The diet of the hoopoe includes many species considered by humans to be pests, such as the pupae of the processionary moth, a damaging forest pest. For this reason the species is afforded protection under the law in many countries.

Hoopoes are distinctive birds and have made a cultural impact over much of their range. They were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt, and were “depicted on the walls of tombs and temples”. At the Old Kingdom, the hoopoe was used in the iconography as a symbolic code to indicate the child was the heir and successor of his father. They achieved a similar standing in Minoan Crete.

In the Torah, Leviticus 11:13–19, hoopoes were listed among the animals that are detestable and should not be eaten. They are also listed in Deuteronomy as not kosher.

Hoopoes also appear in the Quran and is known as the “hudhud”, in Surah Al-Naml 27:20–24: “And he took attendance of the birds and said, “Why do I not see the hoopoe – or is he among the absent? (20) I will surely punish him with a severe punishment or slaughter him unless he brings me clear authorization.” (21) But the hoopoe stayed not long and said, “I have encompassed that which you have not encompassed, and I have come to you from Sheba with certain news. (22) Indeed, I found a woman ruling them, and she has been given of all things, and she has a great throne. (23) I found her and her people prostrating to the sun instead of

Allah, and Satan has made their deeds pleasing to them and averted them from way, so they are not guided, (24)”.

The sacredness of the Hoopoe and connection with Solomon and the Queen of Sheba is mentioned in passing in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Butterfly that Stamped.”

Hoopoes were seen as a symbol of virtue in Persia. A hoopoe was a leader of the birds in the Persian book of poems The Conference of the Birds (“Mantiq al-Tayr” by Attar) and when the birds seek a king, the hoopoe points out that the Simurgh was the king of the birds.

Hoopoes were thought of as thieves across much of Europe, and harbingers of war in Scandinavia. In Estonian tradition, hoopoes are strongly connected with death and the underworld; their song is believed to foreshadow death for many people or cattle. In medieval ritual magic, the hoopoe was thought to be an evil bird. The Munich Manual of Demonic Magic, a collection of magical spells compiled in Germany frequently requires the sacrifice of a hoopoe to summon demons and perform other magical intentions.

Tereus, transformed into the hoopoe, is the king of the birds in the Ancient Greek comedy The Birds by Aristophanes. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book 6, King Tereus of Thrace rapes Philomela, his wife Procne’s sister, and cuts out her tongue. In revenge, Procne kills their son Itys and serves him as a stew to his father. When Tereus sees the boy’s head, which is served on a platter, he grabs a sword but just as he attempts to kill the sisters, they are turned into birds—Procne into a swallow and Philomela into a nightingale. Tereus himself is turned into an epops (6.674), translated as lapwing by Dryden and lappewincke (lappewinge) by John Gower in his Confessio Amantis, or hoopoe in A.S. Kline’s translation. The bird’s crest indicates his royal status, and his long, sharp beak is a symbol of his violent nature. English translators and poets probably had the northern lapwing in mind, considering its crest.

The hoopoe was chosen as the national bird of Israel in May 2008 in conjunction with the country’s 60th anniversary, following a national survey of 155, 000 citizens, outpolling the white-spectacled bulbul. The hoopoe appears on the logo of the University of Johannesburg and is the official mascot of the university’s sports teams. The municipalities of Armstedt and Brechten, Germany, have a hoopoe in their coats of arms.

In Morocco, hoopoes are traded live and as medicinal products in the markets, primarily in herbalist shops. This trade is unregulated and a potential threat to local populations.

Three CGI enhanced hoopoes, together with other birds collectively named “the tittifers”, are often shown whistling a song in the BBC children’s television series In the Night Garden….

Harrison Tordoff, a World War II fighter ace and later a noted ornithologist, named his P-51 Mustang as Upupa epops, the scientific name of the hoopoe bird.