You’ll never mistake the Eurasian hoopoe for any other bird! Its most distinctive feature is a tall crest of cinnamon-colored feathers tipped with black. This crest can be opened, fanlike, or closed.
This bird has a light tan body with broad, rounded, black and white wings. Its beak is long, thin, and tapering, with a slight downward curve.
The Eurasian hoopoe ranges from 9.8 to 12.6 inches in length and typically weighs between 1.5 and 3 pounds, making it a medium-sized bird.
Its wings are broad and rounded, and the migratory populations sport larger wings than their nonmigratory southern relatives.
Range and Habitat
This bird species can be found in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and northern Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Eurasian hoopoe is able to thrive in a wide range of ecosystems, as it requires only a bare or lightly vegetated ground for foraging and any type of vertical surface with cavities for nesting.
Since plenty of habitats meet these requirements, this bird species is widespread across forest glades, savannas, grasslands, and more.
Call of the Eurasian Hoopoe
The hoopoe produces a soft “oop-oop-oop” call, and may also emit a rasp, hiss, or croak when alarmed.
Females produce a wheezy sound specifically during courtship feeding, which is a behavior in which the male delivers food as a gift to the female as part of the mating ritual.
(the second or third call is good, the first one isn’t really its main call)
The Eurasian hoopoe subsists on a diet of mostly insects, which it forages by probing the ground with its long beak or by digging with its feet.
It will also eat insects found on the surface of the ground and probe through brush and leaves with its beak to find food.
Less commonly, the hoopoe catches insects in flight. Its diet may also sometimes include berries, seeds, and small reptiles.
This bird is migratory in the northern part of its range, with those birds that occupy Europe and northern Asia migrating to more tropical locations for winter.
The hoopoe populations of Africa, on the other hand, are nonmigratory thanks to the year-round warm climate.
Breeding and Life Span
The Eurasian hoopoe lives around 10 years in the wild.
These birds are monogamous, although their pair bond lasts for only one mating season. The female incubates the eggs alone, but the male provides food for the female during the incubation period.
In Europe, a clutch can be as large as 12 eggs. A smaller clutch size is common in the tropics and subtropics, with an average of four to seven eggs, respectively.
The chicks hatch asynchronously and remain with the parents for around 29 days. During this time, they’re kept safe from predators by a unique set of defense mechanisms. The female produces a foul-smelling liquid during this time that smells like rotten meat and is thought to deter predators.
Nestlings are also capable of directing their feces at predators from just a few days of age.
The hoopoe has an extensive cultural impact.
For example, it was closely associated with Ancient Egyptian children and was often depicted in Egyptian iconography on the walls of tombs.
The hoopoe is also mentioned in the Torah and the Quran, as well as in Greek literature including The Birds by Aristophanes. Today, the hoopoe is the national bird of Israel.
Threats Faced by the Eurasian Hoopoe
According to the IUCN, this species is classed as a Species of Least Concern.
However, its population is declining. Loss of habitat and overhunting are the main threats to the species. In Morocco, these birds are traded live in herbalist shops and as medicinal products.