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Hoopoes: Upupidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Hoopoes fly with a distinctive pattern of irregular (often erratic), butterfly-like flapping of its wings. When coming to rest, they raise their crest, which remains flat during the time of flight. The crest, which normally rests folded within the back of its neck, is also raised when they become excited. Also when alarmed, they make a quiet chattering sound. They are able to easily climb upward even on rough surfaces. Hoopoes are diurnal birds (active only during the day), roosting in cavities at night. Hoopoes give out a soft "hoo-poo" and "oop-oop-oop" calls, which is easily heard over long distances, while puffing out of its neck feathers. During the breeding season, they are usually found singly or in pairs, but at other times they are seen in family groups or loose flocks of up to ten birds. They are migratory birds over the northern parts of their range, and partially migratory elsewhere within their range. Northern populations of hoopoes winter in tropical areas of Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. The birds in the southernmost parts of their range rarely migrate.

Hoopoes are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), having one mate, and are strongly territorial while breeding. Breeding starts usually in late April. Males begin the courtship process several weeks before actual breeding, using a song to attract his female partner in a series of two to five loud "hoop" notes, which are often sung on posts. Males chase females, bringing food, and showing off possible nest sites. Male hoopoes locate holes in trees, walls, cliffs, banks, termite mounds, woodpecker holes, flat ground, and crevices, narrows cracks or openings, between rocks in order to use as nests. The entrance is narrow, forcing hoopoes to squeeze inside. Once located, males chase away all intruders on the ground and in the air, making this area his protected territory. Such locations use little or no nesting materials, but can be made up of plants, feathers, wool, and other similar substances, eventually making the nest cavity, hollow area, very smelly and unsanitary. Suitable nests may be reused for several years.

During courtship, males will feed the female partner just before mating. Afterwards, the pair often flies slowly throughout their territory, one behind the other, while raising and lowering their crests. Females usually produce one egg each day, with a clutch size, number of eggs hatched together, of four to seven eggs in tropical areas and five to nine eggs in temperate regions, with a maximum number of twelve eggs. The smooth, non-glossy eggs can vary in color from grayish, yellowish, greenish, or brownish. They are about 1.02 by 0.71 inches (2.6 by 1.8 centimeters) in size. The incubation period, time in which birds sit on hatched eggs, is from twenty-five to thirty-two days, with females performing the entire process of sitting on the eggs. Eggs are hatched at different times. At first, females feed and take care of newborn chicks, but later both parents feed and take care of the young. Males feed females while she is caring for the eggs and for the first week after the young have hatched. Fledglings, young birds that have grown feathers that are necessary to fly, begin to feed on their own after six days, but remain with parents for many weeks, usually around twenty-eight days after hatching. Usually only one brood, young that are born and raised together, is raised each year, however up to three broods have been recorded. In the beginning young birds fly very clumsily in irregular curves, and walk awkwardly.

The young nesting birds use hissing sounds, poking upward with their bills, and striking with one wing in order to defend themselves from enemies. They also use very smelly secretions from body glands and sprayings of feces, solid body waste, to fend off attacks. To defend against predators, adults flatten themselves against the ground by spreading their wings and tails onto the ground, with their head raised backward and bill raised.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsHoopoes: Upupidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HOOPOES AND PEOPLE