The hoopoe (Upupa epops) is the only species in its family, the Upupidae. This species breeds in northwestern Africa, on Madagascar, throughout the Middle East, and in southern Europe and southern Asia. Its usual habitats are open forests, savannas, grasslands, and some types of cultivated lands and parks. Some populations of hoopoes are sedentary, while others are migratory.
Hoopoes have a body length of 12 in (30 cm), with broad, rounded wings, a long tail, and a long, thin, slightly downward-curving beak. The head is strongly and distinctively crested. The upper body has a light brown, pinkish coloration, and the rest of the body and wings are strongly barred with black and white. The female hoopoe is slightly smaller and duller in coloration than the male.
Hoopoes feed mostly on the ground on invertebrates, although they sometimes also catch insects in the air. They commonly perch and roost in trees. The flight of hoopoes is erratic, and strongly undulating.
Their call is a loud "hoop-hoop-hoop," and is the origin of the species' name.
Hoopoes nest in a cavity in a tree or sometimes in a hole in a wall or building. The female incubates the five to eight eggs, and is fed by the male during her confinement. Both sexes care for the young. Unlike most birds, hoopoes are not fastidious and do leave their nest to defecate, nor do they remove the fecal packets of the young. Consequently, their nest becomes quite fouled with excrement and disgustingly smelly.
Hoopoes are an unusual and distinctive species and have been important in some cultures. Hoopoes are depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and they are mentioned in some classical literature from Greece. They are still appealing today and are a choice sighting for bird-watchers and other naturalists.
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