The Hoopoe is a little smaller than a Collared Dove and is a scarce but regular passage migrant in the spring and autumn, with about 100 birds visiting each year, usually along the south and east coasts but can literally appear anywhere.
The plumage is mainly pinkish-brown with black- and white-striped wings. The blackish bill is long (5 cm, 2"), narrow and curved slightly downwards. The legs are grey. The long pinkish crest is tipped with black and is usually laid flat, but projecting backwards from the rear of the head. The crest is usually raised into a fan-shape only briefly when the bird lands.
Juveniles are duller with off-white wing bars.
In flight, the wings are broad and rounded and the tail is black with a broad white band.
Jays are sometimes incorrectly identified as Hoopoes by novice birdwatchers, because Jays are a similar size and colour, have broad, rounded wings, and can raise their crown feathers into a slight crest.
|26-28 cm (10½-11")
|42-46 cm (17-18")
|55-80 g (2-3 oz)
The song is a far-carrying, soft, resonant "hoo-hoo-hoo".
Hoopoes feed on spiders, snails, insects and their larvae that they find either on the surface of the ground or by probing into the ground with their long bill.
Perhaps as many as 20 Hoopoes have bred in Britain in the last 200 years.
The nest is usually made in a cavity, which may be a hole in a tree, wall or building, and is sometimes lined with plants, feathers, wool, etc.
The smooth, non-glossy eggs are about 26 mm by 18 mm, but variably coloured; they can be greyish, yellowish, greenish or brownish. Incubation is by the female only. The young are fed by both parents.
Hoopoes breed in central and southern Europe and winter in southern Europe and Africa. Birds that arrive in Britain have overshot their breeding grounds, often because of south-easterly winds.
The Hoopoe is specially protected in Europe but there are no measures in Britain other than keeping secret the location of any nests.