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Upupidae – Hoopoes

Eurasian Hoopoe in Spain: Photo by Jorge García Mora

The distinctive Hoopoe is easily recognized by its striking crown of feathers, which it can fan into a colorful display. These birds are known for their undulating flight and the “oop-oop-oop” calls that give them their name. They use their long, decurved bills to probe the ground for insects and other small creatures. Hoopoes nest in cavities, often reusing the same site year after year, and their fascinating behaviors and unique appearance have made them a part of many cultural traditions and myths.

Overview of Upupidae

Hoopoes are named for their dove-like song, which males deliver from a perch with a downflexed head and inflated throat, creating a ringing, far-ranging call. However, it’s their striking appearance that captures most observers’ attention. Both sexes sport outrageous looks with long, lax orange crests tipped with black, often held erect like a giant fan. This is complemented by a long, thin, decurved bill and dramatic barring on their wings and tail. Hoopoes nest in various cavities, including urban areas, and are known for their legendary foul smell, a result of powerful uropygial gland secretions used for nest defense.