Have you ever seen a brown bird characterized by chestnut-colored feathers with black tips before? If you didn’t, don’t worry. Actually, this bird mostly lives in South Africa, so you won’t find it in the USA or Europe. The latter is about the same size as your average robin. This kind of bird is called the “African Hoopoe”. Although it isn’t a widely studied species, there are many interesting facts that we think you should know. Therefore, let’s get to know this beautiful bird that is the African Hoopoe, shall we?
What is the African Hoopoe’s origin?
The African Hoopoe, or also called Upupa Africana, is a bird species in the Upupidae family. This particular family of birds also has many other colorful bird species like the Eurasian Hoopoe and the Madagascan Hoopoe. In the past, the African Hoopoe was considered just a subspecies of the Hoopoe since most people believed they were very similar, except for the plumage and the voice.
Regarding the binomial name, Upuna Africana was given by Johann Matthaus Bechstein, a German naturalist and forester. The word “Hoopoe” came from their singing pattern which is very remarkable and easy to remember.
What does the African Hoopoe say?
As we mentioned above, this bird is best-known for its unique vocalizations. During the mating season, the male African Hoopoe will sing “hoo-poo” around 4-5 times with a break and then continue this pattern again and again to attract the females. And that’s pretty much how they’ve gotten their name! Besides, the males also make this particular “Choorie Choorie” sound when they give food to their lovers.
When the mating season is finished, these cute flying creatures become almost silent. However, they still make little sounds like “rattle” and “huk” sounds (both males and females) if they are disturbed.
How to identify an African Hoopoe?
The African Hoopoe features distinct physical characteristics of a chestnut brown crest with black tips feathers. When they are frightened or panicky, they will raise their crest and its color will become even more distinguishable.
This magnificent bird presents a fully rich brown plumage similar to its crest, except the belly and under-tail that lean in the white tones. Generally, the females will have a grayer body than males, but both of them sport noticeable black and white stripes on the wings and tail. About their size, normally they aren’t larger than 25-29 cm, or 44-48 cm with their wingspan, and the weight of an adult is normally around 40-60 grams. Moreover, you can also notice its long dark narrow beak which is designed to forage through the ground and sometimes for fighting.
Where is the natural habitat of the African hoopoe?
African Hoopoes are widespread in the African continent, particularly in South Africa. We can also find them in Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Malaxi, Tanzania, as well as in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This kind of bird favors living in open and bushy areas. A landscape with thorny bush, riverine woodlands, or broadleaf forests, all are their preferred natural habitat. Another interesting fact about them is that African Hoopoes indeed love the sun. If they want to relax, they will land on the ground, basking in the sun and sand, and profit from the warm sun rays.
Nowadays, they are also conserved in many nature reserves, wildlife parks, gardens, and other man-made habitats. The latter can be visited almost all year long, such as the Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town, Birds of Eden near Plettenberg Bay, the Makana Botanical Gardens in Grahamstown, etc.
How about the African Hoopoe’s behavior?
The African Hoopoes aren’t sociable birds so they usually live alone or in pairs. You might see small flocks of them only during the migration season. Besides, this species is also monogamous. During the courtship, a young male African Hoopoe will please a female by offering his delicious insects to win her heart. Once they are in a couple, they will find a natural tree hole or a carved hole (by woodpeckers) to nest. The male is always the one who chooses the place.
Their egg-laying season normally comes around August-February each year. A female can lay a total of 4-7 eggs and will be done in approximately 2 weeks. Indeed, surprisingly, the female can only lay them one by one, and it takes about 2 days before laying the next egg. After all that hard work, she will fully take charge of her eggs, incubating them for 15-16 days while the male is hunting to feed the family. When the hatchlings come out of their eggs, they will stay with their parents only for the first month before leaving the nest and living on their own.
What does an African Hoopoe eat?
Similar to other common birds, the favorite food of the African Hoopoes are insects, such as beetles, earwigs, grasshoppers, crickets, etc. In addition, they also consume worms, slugs, and small reptiles like lizards, small snakes, or frogs. For hunting, they will use their long bill to grab their prey from the soil, whack them onto the ground, and then break it into small pieces to eat.
Furthermore, sometimes they also eat some small seeds and berries, but they generally prefer insects rather than fruits.
The wildlife is amazing and impressive, isn’t it? Anytime you notice a little bird with unique colors in nature or any reserved park, always take the time to appreciate nature and its beauty. Enjoy!