don't look at me like this! (21)
|The Hoopoe, Upupa epops, is a colourful bird that is found across Afro-Eurasia, notable for its distinctive 'crown' of feathers. It is the only extant species in the family Upupidae. One insular species, the Giant Hoopoe of Saint Helena, is extinct, and the Madagascar subspecies of the Hoopoe is sometimes elevated to a full species. The English name is derived from Latin upupa, which imitates the cry of the bird.|
The Hoopoe is classified in the Coraciiformes clade, a group that also includes kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, and woodhoopoes (forming a clade with this one according to Hackett et al. (2008)). A close relationship between the Hoopoe and the woodhoopoes is also supported by the shared and unique nature of their stapes. In the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, the Hoopoe is separated from the Coraciiformes as a separate order, the Upupiformes. Some authorities place the woodhoopoes in the Upupiformes as well.
The fossil record of the hoopoes is very incomplete, with the earliest fossil coming from the Quaternary. The fossil record of their relatives is older, with fossil woodhoopoes dating back to the Miocene and those of an extinct related family, the Messelirrisoridae, dating from the Eocene.
It is the only extant member of its family, although some treatments consider some of the subspecies as separate species. Several authors have separated the Madagascan subspecies (U. e. marginata) as a separate species, and also the resident African form U. e. africana. The morphological differences between the most commonly split subspecies, U. e. marginata, and the other subspecies are minor, and only U. e. marginata has distinctly different vocalisations. One accepted separate species, the Giant Hoopoe, U. antaios, lived on the island of St Helena but became extinct in the sixteenth century, presumably due to introduced species.
The genus Upupa was created by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758. It then included three other species with long curved bills:
* U. eremita (now Geronticus eremita), the Northern Bald Ibis
* U. pyrrhocorax (now Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), the Red-billed Chough
* U. paradisea
Nine subspecies of Hoopoe are recognised by the Kristin 2001 (in the Handbook of the Birds of the World), with these subspecies varying mostly in size and the depth of colour in the plumage. Two further subspecies have been proposed, U. e. minor in South Africa and U. e. orientalis in north western India.
Distribution, habitat and migration
The Hoopoe is widespread in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. Most European and north Asian birds migrate to the tropics in winter. In contrast the African populations are sedentary year-round. The species has been a vagrant in Alaska; U. e. saturata was recorded as being seen there in 1975 in the Yukon Delta. Hoopoes have been known to breed north of their European range, and in southern England during warm, dry summers that provide plenty of grasshoppers and similar insects, although as of the early 1980s northern European populations were reported to be in the decline possibly due to changes in climate.
The Hoopoe has two basic requirements in its habitat; bare or lightly vegetated ground on which to forage and vertical surfaces with cavities (such as trees, cliffs or even walls, nestboxes, haystacks, and abandoned burrows) in which to nest. These requirements can be provided in a wide range of ecosystems and as a consequence they inhabit a wide range of habitats from heathland, wooded steppes, savannas and grasslands, as well as glades inside forests. The Madagascar subspecies also makes use of more dense primary forest. The modification of natural habitats by humans for various agricultural purposes has led to them becoming common in olive groves, orchards, vineyards, parkland and farmland, although they are less common and declining in intensively farmed areas. Hunting is of concern in southern Europe and Asia.
Hoopoes make seasonal movements in response to rain in some regions such as in Ceylon and in the Western Ghats. Birds have been seen at high altitudes during migration across the Himalayas and was recorded at about 6400 m by the first Mount Everest Expedition.
The muscles of the head allow the Hoopoe's bill to be opened when it is inserted into the ground
The Hoopoe is a medium sized bird, 25–32 cm (9.8-12.6 in) long, with a 44–48 cm (17.3–19 in) wingspan weighing 46-89 g (1.6-3.1 oz). The species is highly distinctive, with a long, thin tapering bill that is black with a fawn base. The strengthened musculature of the head allows the bill to be opened when probing inside the soil. The hoopoe has broad and rounded wings capable of strong flight; these are larger in the northern migratory subspecies. The Hoopoe has a characteristic undulating flight, which is like that of a giant butterfly, caused by the wings half closing at the end of each beat or short sequence of beats.
The song is a trisyllabic "oop-oop-oop", which gives rise to its English and scientific names. In the Himalayas, the calls can be confused with that of the Himalayan Cuckoo (Cuculus saturatus) although the cuckoo typically produces four notes. Other calls include rasping croaks and hisses. A wheezy note is produced by females during courtship feeding by the male.