Hoopoe (Upupa epops)


Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family:    Upupidae
Size:    Length: 10 to 12 inches (26 to 30 cm)
Weight: 2 to 2.5 ounces (57 to 71 g)
Diet: Insects and lizards
Distribution: Europe, Africa and Asia
Young:  4 to 8 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Birds of prey
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Unknown



·       The hoopoe has been featured on over 70 postage stamps from countries around the world.

·       The giant, flightless St. Helena hoopoe was hunted to extinction in the 1500s.

·       Hoopoes can climb up the sides of trees.

·       They have rapid wing beats and appear motionless while hovering.



Hoopoes are strikingly beautiful birds with black-and-white striped wings and tail. Their head and chest are a light red-orange and they have a large crest, tipped white and black, on top of their head, that rises when they are alarmed or excited. Hoopoes also have a slender bill that they use to probe for insects. Males and females are similar in appearance, but males are slightly larger and their colours are a little brighter.  Hoopoes are slightly larger in size than American robins.



Hoopoes range from southern Europe and Asia through to the southern tip of Africa. In the northern ranges, they are migratory in winter. Hoopoes inhabit forested areas and grasslands and make their nests in tree holes, walls, and rock crevices, or even in the ground.


Feeding Habits

Hoopoes feed on the ground, searching for insects or lizards, and as they walk, their head bobs back and forth. They probe beneath the dirt and grass with their bill for insects.



A male courts a female by bowing to her while raising his crest up and down to attract her attention. After mating, the female lays four to eight pale, olive-coloured eggs in an unlined nest and incubates them for approximately 18 days. During this time, the male will bring food back to the nest for her. The young hoopoes hatch in three to four weeks and are born naked and helpless. Both the male and female care for and feed the youngsters. In a month, their flight feathers have grown in and they are ready to leave the nest. Hoopoes are well known for having filthy smelling nests. They do not remove excrement from the nest and in time, it begins to decay. As well, the female and chicks secrete an oily substance that they spread over their feathers to keep them healthy. The odour works as a natural repellent to keep predators away from the nest.



Hoopoes are fast runners and talented flyers and are easily able to elude birds of prey. When a bird of prey flies overhead while the hoopoe is on the ground, the hoopoe flattens itself, spreads out its wings and tail and raises its beak to defend itself. Hooopoes like to take dust or sand baths. They get their name from their unique call, which consists of a series of soft, repeated “hoop” sounds.



Hoopoes are not considered a conservation concern at this time. 








Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited

Hoopoe Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US