Monday, May 21, 2018


We saw lots of Hoopoes during our two week expedition to Menorca. Hang on, let me rephrase that a little. We heard many a Hoopoe; probably several dozen. We saw less - five or six individuals on a typical day.

"Click the pics" to see Hoopoe action.


The Hoopoe’s “oop,oop,oop,oop” call carries many a mile over the quiet landscape of Menorca. But this mainly shy bird often calls from the cover of a copse, a dry stone wall or the corner of a distant building. For an apparently highly visible bird with a funky hairdo the Hoopoe can be difficult to spot. Its striking but basically sandy-brown plumage blends well with the dry landscape while the black & white wing pattern and the bird’s erratic butterfly flight allows the bird to dissolve into the dappled light of a Menorca day. 


The Hoopoe is very common in Menorca where it occupies a wide variety of habitats: vineyards, gardens, parks, woodland and agricultural situations. In fact anywhere that will hold a dark cavity in which they can raise a family. 

The stink from a Hoopoe nest is legendary. The female secretes a substance of foul odour from the uropygial gland. This liquid smells like rotten meat. Due to the unpleasant smell, most predators stay away from the nest. On the other hand, insects, the Hoopoe's food, will be attracted but may find themselves to be the next Hoopoe meal. 

I didn’t test out the smelly nest theory when I found a nesting pair during the first week of our holiday as it was a hands and knees job. The nest site was an inch or two from the ground with the danger of rubbing my nose into soil and debris from the unkempt surroundings. 



Initially I thought that the adults were feeding only tiny young as they carried quite small morsels of food into the lump of pre-cast concrete with a handy cavity. Mostly the adults took items through the hole and left quickly, but on occasions the slightly smaller female stayed in to brood the chick(s). One food item seemed to be favoured, a small, red spherical creature that appeared to be a spider or bug. On other occasions it was definitely spiders of one sort or another. 






May 18th was our flight home day. So on the late afternoon of the 17th I left Sue packing and drove for a last look and check of the Hoopoe’s nest. I was glad I did because after a while and soon after the female departed the nest, a younger head appeared at the hole. 

The youngster peered out into the world it would soon inhabit. Passing cars, footsteps, sounds of laughter & joy from a nearby villa and swimming pool. The click of a camera from the window of a Fiat Panda didn't phase the youngster as it waited patiently for mum to return.

Hoopoe chick

Wow. That’s some gape; pure white, unmissable in the darkened depths of a nest when the adult arrives with a pile of grubs to share. Maybe there was only one youngster after all? We'll never know but my guess would be that the young Hoopoe was big enough to fly away on 18th May at much the same time as we flew back to Manchester Airport. 

In the UK the Hoopoe is uncommon enough to be an attraction for twitchers. I guess it’s those jazzy looks, the wish to see that slow fanning in and out of the headdress or to hear that mellow “oop, oop, oop”? 

Bird ringers will testify that in the hand the Hoopoe is something of a disappointment. Beneath that colourful finery lays a rather scrawny skeleton that seems in desperate need of a good meal. But I must admit a Hoopoe does make for a nice ringing “tick” and a good enough photograph.

Linking today to Anni's Blog and World Bird Wednesday.


David Gascoigne said...

Good morning Phil:It is indeed a fabulous bird to see and I always look for it if I know I am in an area where it can be found. I was unaware of the smell in the nest, but then I have never been that close to a nest. In fact the only nest I ever saw was in an old farm building and it was shown to Miriam and me by Noushka and her husband.

Klara said...

that is a faboulous bird. nice captures.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, what a great post and awesome photos. The Hoopoe is a great bird, one I would love to see in the wild. It is great you were able to see it's nest and the youngster. Enjoy your day and new week ahead!

Lowcarb team member said...

What a wonderful looking bird, so pleased you were able to see and photograph the youngster.

All the best Jan

Stuart Price said...

Great bird and great photos. Saw my first one in Spain many years ago. I've seen them on 5 occasions in north Japan where they are highly sought after but pretty uncommon wanderer.............

Kay L. Davies said...

The young one does seem to be about ready to leave the nest. We will never know, but we'll all have enjoyed your stories and photos of the Hoopoe.
Best to you and Sue.
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Angie said...

Yippee, Phil - a whole post about my favorite of your Menorca birds!!! Thank you. And what a treat to see the bit about the nesting pair and the chick … AWESOME. I am now going about the house saying 'oop, oop, oop.'

Fun60 said...

For once this is a bird I do recognise. Once seen, never forgotten I suppose. I came across them in Asia but didn't know they are to be found in the Balearic Islands. I once had one land in the back garden here in London. It stayed for about half an hour before flying off to try and get back on course I would assume.

Jutta.Kupke said...

Meine Anerkennung, das sind großartige Aufnahmen.
Ein toller, interessanter Vogel.

Lady Fi said...

What a delightful bird!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

That is a fascinating looks and behavior.

Rhodesia said...

A bird that I love. I have only heard them so far this year but last year we had the parents and 3 young on our lawn for several weeks. I am slowly running out on African birds so the hoopoes will be featuring on my bird blog sometime soon. Have a good day Diane

Jill Foley said...

Fascinating - wonderful photos!

Margaret Adamson said...

Fabulous images of this bird Phil. Have a great week.

Angie said...

I've told you before how much I like the Hoopoe, and now a whole post about them!!! Thank you! And now, for some reason, I am going around the house saying 'oop, oop, oop'!

Jayne said...

Just landed on your blog a mere 4 days after a repeat of the Midsomer Murders "Blue crested Hoopoe" episode LOL.
Charming looking bird, love the dedication to feeding that chick up before it leaves home.

betty-NZ said...

What a fantastic looking creature!

Betty Crow said...

Wonderful series of Hoopoe shots! That last one is perfections.

A Colorful World said...

So fascinating! Loved learning about this interesting, unusual bird. How weird that their nest smells so awful and the predators stay away!

NC Sue said...

I'd never heard of hoopoes so your post taught me something new... which your posts generally do!
Thanks for sharing at

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

What a cool looking bird! Thanks for sharing!

BumbleVee said...

That's great...what a lot of info...and, wonderful photos.....

Anni said...

Awww. I'm so glad you went back to the nest! Sweet. Such a terrific bird.

Thanks for linking up this week!

Mary Cromer said...

Oh I am so glad that I kept clicking back on older posts... Happy to see that when you went back to check on the nest, you got to see the young one. Jazzy looking birds for sure, really very beautiful. That young one is probably out and about now and the next time you visit the island, you will never know which one it was ;)

Kay L. Davies said...

Oooh, Phil, I want a hoopoe!
Well, maybe not, if there's a strong smell from the uropygial gland, which you say is informally known as the preen gland or the oil gland.
Okay, I don't want one any more despite its wonderful name.
I'm glad you and Sue had an enjoyable annual visit to the land of the uropygial, though!
Stay well!
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

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