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. 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.
Habitat and Distribution
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. Hoopoes have been known to breed north of their European range. Their habitat is heathland, wooded steppes, savannas and grasslands, as well as glades inside forests. They have also become common in olive groves, parkland and farmland.
The diet of the Hoopoe is mostly composed of insects, although small reptiles, frogs and plant matter such as seeds and berries are sometimes taken as well. It is a solitary forager which typically feeds on the ground.
The nest is in a hole in a tree or wall, with a narrow entrance. It may be unlined or various scraps may be collected. Northern hemisphere birds lay more eggs than those in the southern hemisphere. In central and northern Europe and Asia the clutch size is around 12, whereas it is between four in the tropics and seven in the subtropics. The eggs are round and milky blue on laying but quickly discolour in the increasingly dirty nest.Females incubate for 15 to 18 days.
Calls and Songs
The call is typically a trisyllabic oop-oop-oop. Other calls include rasping croaks, when alarmed, and hisses. Both genders, when disturbed, call a rough charrrrrr, strongly reminiscent of the warning cry of the Eurasian Jay.