hoopoe ho͞o´po͞o, –pō [key], common name for a shy, solitary, Old World woodland bird, Upupa epops. Its body color ranges from cinnamon to chestnut, with white-barred, black wings and tail, and a head topped by a prominent, erectile crest. Hoopoes measure from 10 1⁄2 to 12 in. (27–30 cm) bill to tail. They are primarily ground feeders and use their long, slender, decurved bills to probe for large insects, worms, and lizards. Less frequently, the hoopoe feeds while airborne, exhibiting its characteristic undulating erratic flight. Hoopoes are excellent runners. Found throughout the Old World, hoopoes frequent warm, dry areas, which are at least partially open. The northernmost members of the species, which reach the English Channel and the Baltic Sea, are migratory in winter. The nest is built in a tree cavity or a rock crevice, sometimes lined with debris, or sometimes bare. The female lays and incubates from four to six pale blue to olive colored eggs per clutch and is fed during incubation by her mate. Both sexes care for the naked, helpless young. In addition to its beautiful plumage, the hoopoe is also noted for its filthy, malodorous nest. The bad odor comes from a combination of putrefying excrement, which the bird does not trouble to remove, and from defensive musty-smelling secretions released from the preen gland of the female when she is disturbed. Woodhoopoes belong to the same family as the hoopoe. They are uncrested and are more gregarious than the hoopoe. Found only in the forests of Africa, woodhoopoes are metallic greens, blues, and purples in color, and travel in small, noisy groups. They share the same foul nesting habits as the hoopoes. Hoopoes and woodhoopoes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Bucerotiformes (or, according to some authorties, Coraciiformes), families Upupidae and Phoeniculidae, respectively.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology