Bird Families

Unusual, amazing bird: the hoopoe


Hoopoe(Upupa epops)


This is a medium-sized bird, with a body length of 25-28 cm and a weight of up to 75 g, a wingspan of up to 50 cm.

The hoopoe has a medium-long tail, a small head with a long (about 5 cm), slightly curved beak and a movable opening crest on top of the crown. The plumage color is variegated and ranges from pinkish to light brown. The wings and tail have alternating black and white stripes.

Males and females do not differ externally from each other. Young birds are generally colored in less saturated colors, have a shorter beak and crest.


These birds are native to Africa, but in the process of evolution they spread to Asia and southern Europe. In our country, hoopoes live in the Leningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Novgorod regions.

They also took root well in Tatarstan and Bashkiria, in the south of Eastern and Western Siberia. Preference is given to forest-steppe and steppe zones, forest edges, small groves. They do not like a damp climate.

In nature

Hoopoes are active in the daytime and spend this time in search of food to feed themselves and their offspring. They are monogamous birds and live in male-female pairs all their lives, huddling in small flocks just for the wintering flight.

In search of food, it often descends to the ground and moves rather nimbly along it. Seeing a danger on the ground in the form of predators, it releases an oily liquid with a very unpleasant odor along with droppings, thereby scaring away hunters from itself.

If the bird realizes that it will not be possible to escape by flight, then the hoopoe hides on the ground, clinging to it with its whole body with spread wings, thereby perfectly disguising itself as the environment.

The diet of the hoopoe consists of various kinds of insects, which it finds on the ground, in trees and catches on the fly. Larvae, spiders, beetles, grasshoppers, worms, caterpillars and even snails are eaten.

The method of catching them is very simple and occurs with the help of a long beak, with which the hoopoe picks out prey from the ground or bark of a tree. Taking the insect from the shelter, the bird kills it with sharp blows of its beak, throws it into the air and, opening its mouth, swallows it.

The average lifespan of a hoopoe is about eight years.


At about one year old, the hoopoe finds a mate for life. The birds are looking for a nesting place. A favorite place is a suitable hollow. Of course, not every couple is lucky, so hoopoes can nest in holes, in crevices, in hollows between stones, under roofs of structures, in recesses of walls, in birdhouses, in woodpiles, etc. Birds use one nest for several years.

Arriving in spring, the males of the hoopoe begin to divide the territory and occupy the nesting sites, then notify and wait for the female.

Fights often take place between males, whole "cock" fights. Arrived hoopoe females run alongside, as if encouraging their chosen ones. Most often, the owner of the site turns out to be the winner, and the loser runs away at a speed that does not allow himself to catch up.

The female can lay from 4 to 12 eggs, most often the average number, once during the whole summer.

The female hoopoe incubates eggs, the male feeds her. Chicks hatch after 17-18 days naked and weak, but they grow very quickly, because parents bring them high-calorie food up to 45 times per hour. After 3 - 4 weeks, the hoopoe chicks fly out of the nest.

Keeping in captivity

The hoopoe is able to live in captivity. Even a caught adult bird gets used to a person and will not fly away from him. Already fledged chicks take root best. This bird is gentle, requires attention and good maintenance. You can feed mealworms, grasshoppers, cockroaches, earthworms. You can cut into strips of fish and meat. Elongated pellets are made from soft food (cottage cheese, eggs, etc.), the hoopoe eats them perfectly. The hoopoe can live freely in the garden, getting used to the person, he will not fly away. In the cold winter period, the hoopoe will feel comfortable in a poultry room or in an apartment.


The hoopoe cannot be confused with any other bird.

A small bird 25-29 cm long and a wingspan of 44-48 cm. Standing out with a striped black-and-white plumage of wings and tail, a long thin beak and a long crest on its head, it is one of the most easily recognizable birds. The color of the head, neck and chest, depending on the subspecies, varies from pinkish to chestnut (ornithologist S. A. Buturlin describes it as “clay-reddish”). The wings are wide, rounded, colored with contrasting black and whitish-yellow stripes. The tail is of medium length, black with a wide white band in the middle. The abdominal part of the body is pinkish-red, with blackish longitudinal stripes on the sides. The crest on the head is orange-red, with black tops of feathers. Usually the crest is complex and has a length of 5-10 cm, (depending on the size of the bird), however, upon landing (at other times rarely), the bird dissolves it, usually 10-15 cm in height with a fan. The beak is 4-5 cm long, slightly bent downward. The tongue, unlike many other bird species, is highly reduced. Legs are lead-gray, rather strong, with short metatarsals and blunt claws. Males and females do not differ externally from each other. Young birds are generally colored in less saturated colors, have a shorter beak and crest.


Moves on the ground quickly and nimbly, like starlings. In the event of a sudden alarm, when there is no way to flee, it can hide, cuddling to the ground, spreading its wings and tail and raising its beak up.

During the period of incubation and feeding of chicks, adult birds and chicks produce an oily liquid secreted from the coccygeal gland and having a sharp unpleasant odor. By releasing it together with droppings on the alien, the hoopoes try to protect itself from small ground predators - as a result of such adaptation in the eyes of humans, the bird has acquired a reputation as a very "unclean" creature. The flight of the hoopoe is slow, fluttering like a butterfly. Nevertheless, it is quite maneuverable, and feathered predators rarely manage to grab a hoopoe in the air.


The vocalization of the hoopoe is as special as its appearance. The voice is a dull, slightly guttural three-to-five-syllable cry "up-up-up" or "ud-ud-ud" (hence its name), repeated several times in a row. The interval between series of sounds rarely exceeds 5 s. Generic scientific name of the bird, Upupa, is an onomatopoeia of this unusual song (a phenomenon called onomatopoeia in linguistics). In addition, in case of surprise or fright, the hoopoe emits a shrill cry "chi-ir", reminiscent of the cry of a ringed turtle dove. Sometimes, during mating games or when caring for offspring, it emits a dull rolling sound.

Distinctive features and appearance of hoopoes

The hoopoe bird does not grow too large: the body length of an adult is about 30 centimeters. The wings of these birds are about 15 centimeters long.

The plumage color has very bright shades, the whole body of the bird is painted in different colors: the back has a reddish tone, the wings are black with white or yellow stripes, there are small spots on the sides of the body, the tail also has a black tint and is decorated with a white pattern. On the head of the hoopoe there is a funny red crest with a black "border". The bird's beak is unusually thin and elongated, its length is from 4 to 6 centimeters.

The hoopoe flies up to the nest with food.

Where does the hoopoe bird live?

The population of these birds occupies rather vast territories. They can be found in Europe: Portugal, Sweden, Finland. On the territory of the Asian part of the mainland, the hoopoes live in India and China. The African continent is also included in their places of residence. On the territory of our country, the hoopoe bird settles in Primorye and other regions of the Far East, in the Central Black Earth region, Siberia and Transbaikalia.

Black-backed, or sickle hoopoe (Rhinopomastus cyanomelas).


Typical biome - a combination of open space without tall grass and a group of trees

The hoopoe is a bird of the Old World. In Eurasia, it is distributed throughout from west to east, in its middle and southern parts. In the west and north of Europe, it practically does not nest on the British Isles (occasional flights to the south of England are known), the Benelux countries, Scandinavia, as well as in the highlands of the Alps, Apennines and Pyrenees. In Germany and the Baltics, it is distributed sporadically. In the European part of Russia, nests south of the Gulf of Finland (south of the Leningrad region), Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod regions, the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. In Western Siberia, it rises to 56 ° N. sh., reaching Tomsk and Achinsk. In Eastern Siberia, the border of the range bends around Lake Baikal from the north, passes through the South-Muisky ridge in Transbaikalia and descends to the 54th parallel in the Amur River basin. In continental Asia, outside of Russia, it lives almost everywhere, avoiding only deserts and areas of continuous forest. Found in the Japanese islands, Taiwan and Sri Lanka. In the southeast, it reaches the southern part of the Malay Peninsula. Accidental flights to Sumatra and the island of Kalimantan are known. In Africa, the main range is located south of the Sahara, as well as in the far north along the Mediterranean coast. In Madagascar, it lives in the western, drier part. In the mountains, it usually occurs up to 2000 m above sea level, although in some cases it rises up to 3100 m.


It usually settles on the plain or in hilly areas, where preference is given to open landscapes without tall grass in combination with individual trees or small groves. It reaches the greatest number in warm and arid regions - steppe and forest-steppe zones, savannah. It prefers to swim along steppe ravines, in a meadow, at the edge or at the edge of a forest, in a river valley, in the foothills, in coastal bush dunes. It is often found in landscapes used by humans - pastures, vineyards or fruit plantations. Sometimes it settles within settlements, where it feeds on garbage dumps. Avoids low-lying, damp areas. For nesting, it uses hollow trees, crevices in stones, holes in river cliffs, termite mounds, depressions of stone structures. It is active during the daytime, and uses tree hollows, rocky cracks or other suitable shelters for sleeping.


Depending on the latitude, it is a sedentary, nomadic or migratory bird. Most of the populations of the nominative subspecies nesting in the western Palaearctic, with the exception of Egypt and southern Algeria, migrate to central and southern sub-Saharan Africa in winter. A small number of birds winter in the Mediterranean and in the north of the African continent. Birds of Central Asia, and in particular of Siberia, migrate to the south of the continent. A small part of the Russian hoopoe winters in the east of Turkmenistan and the southern part of Azerbaijan. The timing of migration is significantly extended in time - the spring arrival occurs in early February - May with a peak in mid-March - April, the autumn departure begins in mid-July and ends in late October. The flight passes on a wide front, at night or at dawn.

Lifestyle and habitat

Usually, such birds choose open landscapes for settlement, preferring to live on the plains, in extreme cases, in small groves or on hilly terrain overgrown with grasses and bushes.

There are especially many representatives of the described species in shrouds, forest-steppe zone and steppes - areas with an arid, warm climate. Hoopoes can be found in coastal dunes, green, flat areas, forest edges, meadows and ravines, in fruit and vine plantations.

Moving on solid ground, this bird behaves quite nimbly. And if he feels the approach of danger, he falls to the ground, spreading his wings, spreading his tail and raising his long beak, thus hiding.

The flight of this bird is very remarkable, it moves through the air, as if diving, then rushing up, then descending below. Voice of the hoopoe a little guttural and deaf. And the sounds he makes are similar to "ud-ud-ud", which turned out to be the reason for the name of the described feathered creation of nature.

Listen to the voice of the hoopoe

And only the Madagascar subspecies in vocalization is an exception, which becomes especially noticeable during the mating season. The sounds made by this bird are similar to a rolling purr.

Popular signs are associated with the hoopoe. Some say that such birds are harbingers of trouble and seeing such winged creatures is not a very good omen. Also, the hoopoe is considered an unclean creature.

This opinion is believed to be related to some of the protective measures that these birds are taking to preserve the life and safety of their chicks. Rumor has it that, driving away predators from their offspring, these winged creatures often shoot droppings at the one encroaching on their nests, hitting directly in the face, eyes or nose.

Some signs connect the appearance of a hoopoe with misfortune

Scientists recognize only the fact that the described birds, like skunks, are endowed by nature with special glands that produce and secrete an unpleasant liquid with an unbearable odor. That is why there are few knowledgeable people who hunt after the hoopoe only to catch it and pick it up. After all, such negligence can end very unpleasantly.

However, nothing prevents you from admiring such a beautiful bird full of proud beauty from the side. Although such birds do not like people, and upon seeing a person, they strive to fly away immediately. Therefore, it is best to admire the beautiful appearance of these creatures by looking hoopoe on the photo.

It should be noted that in spite of the legends that provide the feathered ill fame, other opinions exist and are quite common, as already mentioned. For example, among the Chechens and Ingush, even in the pre-Islamic period, this wonderful creation of nature personified the goddess of fertility, spring and childbirth named Tusholi.

Among these peoples, the nest of this bird in the courtyard of the house was considered a wonderful omen, and the killing of the sacred bird was by no means encouraged. These are signs, hoopoe-related.

It should be remembered that these winged creatures are mentioned in the Bible and the no less famous Koran. And they often appear in the works of ancient famous classics. According to legend, King Solomon went to this particular bird with a message to the famous Queen of Sheba. And in response to this, he received rich gifts from her.

Reproduction and life expectancy

In the process of reproduction of their own kind, such birds are inherent in constancy. First of all, they are monogamous. In addition, for the construction of nests, they prefer to choose invariably the same favorite sites for a certain number of years.

Their hoopoe nests try to hide from unwanted eyes in crevices and hollows, which are not high from the surface of the earth. Sometimes they choose niches in the walls of various stone structures for the construction of the dwelling of chicks. They do not like unwanted neighborhoods, including relatives.

Therefore, between married couples of hoopoes in the struggle for territory, real, cock-like battles often take place, where males fight among themselves with great ferocity.

Representatives of this species, settling in the Russian open spaces, arrive at the nesting sites immediately with the appearance of the first signs of spring. Males, preoccupied with the choice of territory for nesting, behave extremely actively and shout loudly, calling their friends.

It is possible to hear such sounds mainly in the morning, as well as in the evening. During the day, the mating songs of these birds are heard quite rarely.

Interesting that female hoopoe, for lack of anything better, can lay eggs among the bones of dead animals. A case was recorded when the nest was arranged in the ribs of a human skeleton.In a clutch, there are usually up to nine pieces of brown or gray eggs, about 2 cm in size.

The brooding process lasts about a month. In this case, the male parent carefully supplies his girlfriend with food. He also helps to feed the offspring that appeared soon.

Hoopoe chicks grow and develop at a rapid pace. And at the age of three, in some cases, four weeks, they are already capable of making their first independent flights. For some time, the kids still try to stay close to the parent site. But soon they achieve complete independence. They become fertile a year after birth.

Hoopoes live for representatives of the bird kingdom for a relatively long time, a total of about eight years. According to scientific data, the population of this species of birds is very numerous on the planet, and it is not threatened with extinction.

Breeding offspring from hoopoes

In our country, hoopoes do not hibernate, so their mating season begins no earlier than March - April, with arrival from warm countries. Males attract the attention of females with loud cries similar to the sounds of "up-up-up". Hoopoes are monogamous birds.

The female lays eggs - from 3 to 8 eggs in one clutch. The eggs hatch for about 14 days, after which small hoopoe chicks are born.

A pair of cuckoo-tailed hoopoes near the nest.

Babies hatch almost naked with a sparse fluff on their bodies. Parents carefully bring them food, feeding the young. Even after the young birds fly out of the nest, the parents continue to be nearby, feeding and caring for their grown offspring. One year after birth, young hoopoes are already capable of further reproduction.

The hoopoe feeds the grown chick.

Hoopoe in the culture of the peoples of the world

"Queen Bilkis and the Hoopoe". Persian miniature, c. 1590-1600

The hoopoe is a notable bird and has been mentioned since ancient times in various literary sources, including the holy scriptures - the Koran and the Bible. In ancient Greek mythology, according to the works of the ancient classics, the Thracian king Tereus, the son of the god of war Ares and the Bistonian nymph, was turned into a hoopoe after he tried to kill his wives.

Before the adoption of Islam, the Ingush and Chechens considered the hoopoe ("tushol-kotam") a sacred bird and symbolized the goddess of spring, fertility and procreation Tusholi. It was possible to kill the hoopoe only with the permission of the priest for ritual purposes, and his nest in the courtyard was considered a good omen.

In Islam (Koran 27: 20-28) and some Jewish sources (such as Targum Sheni to the Book of Esther and Midrash Mishlei, midrash to the Book of Proverbs), the hoopoe is associated with the lord of birds and beasts, King Solomon. According to legend, once the ruler did not find the hoopoe among his birds, and when he finally found himself, he told about the wonderful city of Kitora and its ruler, the beautiful Queen of Sheba (Bilkis among Muslims), who worships the Sun. The king sent the hoopoe to the land of Sheba with a message to the queen. In response to the letter, the woman sent him rich gifts, and then paid a visit to the king in Jerusalem.

In the fifth book of the Pentateuch (Torah) and the Old Testament "Deuteronomy", presumably compiled in the 7th century BC. e., the hoopoe is mentioned among the birds prohibited for consumption:

Eat every clean bird,
but you must not eat these of them: the eagle, the vulture, and the sea eagle,
and a kite, and a falcon, and a gyrfalcon with their breed,
and every raven with its kind,
and an ostrich, and an owl, and a gull, and a hawk with its breed,
and an owl, and an ibis, and a swan,
and a pelican, and a vulture, and a fisherman,
and herons, and prickling with its breed, and the hoopoe, and the bat.

Despite this, even at the end of the 19th century in Germany, the meat of adult hoopoes and chicks was eaten and found "very tasty".

One of the battalions of the Israel Defense Forces is called "Duhifat", which means "hoopoe" in Hebrew. In May 2008, in connection with the 60th anniversary of Israel, at the initiative of the Ministry of Ecology, elections for the national bird of this state were announced. As a result of a vote in which all residents of the country could take part, the hoopoe was chosen - more than 35% spoke in favor of this bird, leaving far behind the warbler, goldfinch, short-toed songbird and some other birds.

In the work of the great Persian Sufi poet Faridaddin Attar, The Parliament of Birds, the hoopoe symbolizes the leader of mankind, inviting the birds to go on a distant search for their mysterious King Simurg, who lives on Mount Kaf. This work, full of different images and meanings, has become one of the central ones in Sufism. In medieval collections of zoological articles, bestiaries, hoopoes were often depicted as birds caring for their elderly parents.

In Russian literature, Maxim Gorky and Velimir Khlebnikov mentioned the hoopoe. Gorky was not very flattering about this bird: "But the hoopoe is a completely stupid bird, and cannot be trained under any circumstances." Khlebnikov, in a sketch of an autobiographical story in verse (1909), expressed himself much more favorably:

I was surrounded by the steppe, flowers, the sound of camels,
Round wagons,
The sea of ​​sheep, whose faces are monotonously thin,
The hoopoes dazzling the expanse with the fire of the wings,
The deserts of the sky are proud belongings.
So the days passed, followed by the years.
Father, distant thunderstorm of saigas,
Gained gratitude from the Kalmyks ...
Tame crows pecked
Meat food from my hands,
They are hardly more freedom-loving
Children doomed to the ax-hand.
Leisure with me while away,
With a ringing cry: "I am an orphan,"
A swan flew, bowing its neck,
I lived, nature, with her.

Samuil Marshak has a retelling of the Czech folk song "The Intractable Hoopoe".

The hoopoe is depicted on the 50 dalasi banknote of the Gambia and on postage stamps around the world.

Interesting hoopoe bird facts

It turns out that these birds were noticed by our distant ancestors. And they not only noticed, but mentioned the hoopoes as some creatures with a sacred or magical meaning. For example, mentions of these birds can be found in the Quran and the Bible. Moreover, the ancient Greeks described these birds in their mythical legends. A very famous story is how one ancient Greek king, the son of the god Ares, was turned into a hoopoe as punishment for wanting to kill his wives.

Cuckoo-tailed hoopoes often become foster parents for a parasitic bird - a large honey guide, which tosses its eggs into their nests.