A remarkable bird: The Hoopoe

This month Birdwatch West Cork Committee Chair Jez Simms shares one of his favourite birds, the Hoopoe (Upupa epops).

When I was very young and first started looking through bird books and field guides, I noticed one fantastic looking exotic creature which the books described as a very rare spring visitor. It became my dream to see one, especially to look out in the garden and find one hopping about on my lawn. This bird is the Hoopoe. It visits our shores in small numbers every year, especially on coastal headlands like the Mizen and Galley Head, and Islands like Cape Clear. They will also venture further inland and have been seen in gardens in Ballydehob, Clonakilty, Schull and quite a few other West Cork towns.  Sadly, this does not include my garden here in West Cork yet. However, my ambition was achieved when I lived in Kenya and the locally breeding African Hoopoe (Upupa africana) used to feed right outside my window; a huge thrill for me. The African Hoopoe is very similar to its European cousin but is much richer in hue, almost orange with a solid black crest and slightly different wing pattern, as the photos illustrate.

In our area Hoopoes can be found from as early as February but most arrive in March and April with the odd bird occurring in the autumn. They are best found when the winds are southerly and there has been a good blow with a bit of rain or mist overnight. When that happens keep an eye out the next morning.

In recent years the number of Hoopoes visiting has increased along with increases in several other southern species, possibly due to climate change. A pair of Hoopoes even bred in the midlands of the UK last year so one day like the Collared Dove and Little Egret before them, they might become resident here in Ireland. They are currently to be found breeding across southern Europe and would be commonly seen if you holiday in France or Spain. Once, when I was in Mallorca, they were nesting in front of the hotel reception; it made my holiday! In the winter they head to Africa and occasionally meet their cousins down there.

The Collins Field guide describes them as ‘one of the most striking and distinctive birds of the whole region, buffy pink with black and white striped broadly rounded wings and crown with an erectile crest like an Indian chief. Need I say more. Like the cuckoo its name is onomatopoeic and its ‘oop oop’ call is a very evocative sound, especially in the dry African or southern European bush, it is even reflected in its scientific genus ‘Upupa’.

I hope you may one day get to see, or have already seen, this remarkable bird and that you too will become enthralled by it.  In my home I have Hoopoe prints and paintings, stained glass, carved wooden ones and even a plush toy that goes ‘oop oop’ when squeezed. Come to think of it, I have not seen it for a while, I think my wife might have hidden it.

BirdWatch Ireland
West Cork Branch News

Upcoming events being held by the Branch are:

Sunday March 3: Timoleague and Courtmacsherry

Thursday, March 14: AGM and talk on Barn Owl by Alan McCarthy

Visit our website www.birdwatchirelandwestcork.ie for more information about these events.  To receive news and reminders about our events join our mailing list by sending an email to mailinglist@birdwatchirelandwestcork.ie.  For more information about the Branch, contact Fiona O’Neill at secretary@birdwatchirelandwestcork.ie.


Twitter @BWIWestCork

WCP Staff

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