The Hoopoe bird

21 Nov

Living where we do, we have a fair variety of birdlife – if you are lucky you will see an eagle or two, we once saw three all at the same time which was an amazing sight.  More frequently, though, you will see the shy hoopoe – they are very distinctive black, white and brown stripes, with a red crest on their heads, and a very long hooked beak for feeding from the ground.  I must admit they do look a bit nutty but it is always a thrill when you see one, or more usually, a pair together.

Hoopoes are monogamous or at least for one season anyway.  They are quite territorial and fights do break out with rival males.  You can hear them calling to each other (hence their name!) and they don’t seem to shut up at night either (as some of our guests have told us!).   Also they have a great way of seeing off any predators when incubating their eggs or looking after their fledglings (we frequently saw magpies trying to stick their beaks in!) – the female hoopoe secretes a liquid that smells of rotting meat which seems to deter any unwanted attention – in fact the babies can also direct streams of waste at intruders from 6 days old!

 

You will usually see them in pairs and they actually nest quite close to the ground in rock faces or holes in trees.  Early this summer, it became apparent that a pair were nesting behind our courtyard in one of the Cyprus trees.  We noticed them in May, going back and forth, back and forth over the roof all day long, and then heard the twittering of babies who stay in the nest for about 6 weeks.  My dad watched them for ages and managed to get some great footage on his video camera of them coming to and from the next with grubs and insects for the babies.  I knew we were going to be away when the babies flew the nest and of course the very week we were away for my birthday they did. But it was amazing to see the parents up so close for so long, as they do tend to be shy, but we are hoping that we will see more of them next Spring..

 

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