The Hoopoe, Float Like a Feather and Sting Like a Bee!
As the national bird of Israel, the Hoopoe is a member of the woodpecker family. With a long beak and distinctive headdress, you can certainly spot them out from a crowd! The name of the bird is adjacent to the exact sound that they make, like the soft whistle of a woodwind instrument. This incredibly eccentric and regal specimen has paved the way as a species of their own, the Upupa.
They’re Not the Kind of House Guest You’d Want
It's pretty common knowledge that most birds build nests as a means of safety for their future offspring. However, the Hoopoe prefers to use leftover spaces left behind from woodpeckers and naturally formed tree hollows to expand their family. Like the eagle, these birds have pretty disgusting housekeeping habits.
It serves a purpose though, as keeping out pests and predators can be challenging when you’re hiding in a hole that they may or may not be coming back to. For this reason, both adult and baby hoopoes are capable of spreading their feces and stench across their nesting ground.
Chivalry Is Still Alive!
Who doesn’t love a guy that will take you out for a decent meal? While a lioness group has to work hard for a meal only for the lion to take the best portion, female Hoopoes receive the opposite treatment. If he is interested, a male hoopoe will offer his muse a piece of food as a “romantic” gesture. In response, the female might make a coughing or rattling sound to signal that she is indeed ready to court.
The flip side is that she’s on her own when it comes time to nest! Once the female is ready to lay her eggs, it is her sole responsibility to provide food and protection. Hoopoes are polyamorous, and they will find a new mate each breeding season.
Ever Seen a Bird Play Dead?
If you see a hoopoe lying on the ground, don’t assume that it's deceased! Similarly to your typical canine, these birds love hanging out in the sunshine. They’re happy to sprawl out onto their backs, wings out, eyes open, beak ajar. Once you realize they’re simply soaking up some UV for the moment, it's actually quite hilarious.
Cat owners who notice hoopoes in their yard should seriously consider putting a bell on their feline if you allow them to roam free. It's only fair to the unexpecting bird who just wants to get a tan in peace!
Living, Breathing Trash Compactors
Their beak looks a lot like that of a hummingbird, but the hoopoe is not a nectar drinking species. They will eat just about anything else though! These birds enjoy berries, small amphibians, centipedes, and flying insects. Their beaks help them to feel around crevices in tree bark and poke around under rocks for rollie pollies and worms.
The sharp point at the tip of their mouth helps to pull prey apart into smaller pieces and kill it before the hoopoe swallows. No one wants live food wiggling its way down into their tummy, even the snake squeezes its food to death before finishing it off.
Hoopoes Love the Heat
It's unlikely that you’ll find very many of these birds in North or South America, but if you’re geographically located in Europe, Africa, or Madagascar between the months of August and October. They enjoy both grassy plainland environments and forests with easily accessible tree trunks. Their tannish color coupled with white and black feathers helps to keep them camouflaged when searching the dirt for bugs.
Hoopoe Babies Aren’t Afraid to Peck a Predator
In addition to the foul scent they’re capable of spreading around, hoopoe chicks are a rather fierce adversary. They don’t make for an easy meal, that’s for sure! These birds will not hesitate to bite or scratch those who invade the nest while their mother isn’t around to protect them. Unlike other little birds, they’re not willing to go down without a fight, which is good considering they’re living in a one-parent nest!
Before hatching, baby hoopoes reside inside eggs of blueish teal color until they turn brown, easily hidden and matching the nesting site. While the male won’t stick around to raise them, he will continue to bring his mate food until she lays her eggs, so at least she gets a little bit of support in that sense!
After about a month, the chicks become a little stronger and are capable of wandering from their home.
Fighting to the Death
In addition to fighting off predators, male hoopoes are pretty serious about defending their territory and showing other birds who the boss is. Even when it comes to their own kind, these birds will literally peck each other to death, using their beaks to poke at the soft flesh of the underbelly and gouge out the eyes of their opponent. The loser may just be lucky enough to survive the onslaught, but they won’t live very long without the ability to see.
They don’t share the same diet, but the hummingbird and the hoopoe share the characteristic of their aggressive beaks.
Hoopoe As a Pet? Heck No!
Yes, it is true, there are some people out there who know how to care for these birds properly. However, you’re better off with literally any other species of small bird than you are with a hoopoe! As you already know, they’re not friendliest around other animals, which means they probably won’t appreciate you handling and touching them on a regular basis.
Secondly, a female hoopoe that is frightened or agitated is likely to spray what they perceive as a threat (your cat, dog, child, etc.) and leave their bacteria all over your home. If you still want one, check the state and federal laws in your area first. Even if you believe you’ve obtained your hoopoe legally, it's necessary to go through all legal channels in order to avoid fines or even possible jail time! Take ownership seriously, and do your research.