African Hoopoe - (Overberg Birds)

Botanical Name: Upupa africana
Afrikaans name: Hoephoep

In the garden area of Fernkloof this easily identifiable bird can be seen probing the ground for insects. It is a bright rufous coloured bird with conspicuous black-tipped crest and wings barred black and white. The crest is briefly raised when the bird settles or when alarmed. The bill is long - thin and slightly de-curved. Common resident.  This cuckoo is seldom seen as it sits still for long periods and calls from a hidden perch high inside a tree. 

African Hoopoe 800 caroline



African Hoopoe has rich chestnut colouration, contrasting with black and white stripes on wings and tail. 
Underparts are reddish-brown. Head and back show the same colour. Broad rounded wings are heavily marked black and white. Square tail is black and shows a white wide band.
Head has a conspicuous crest, made with long chestnut feathers, with a bold black tip. This crest may take two forms, according to the moment. It may be as held straight, or erected in a rounded crown. 
Dark bill is long, slender and down-curved. Eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are brownish. 
Female is duller than male.
Immature resembles female with shorter crest.

Distribution and Habitat

African Hoopoes favour open and bushy areas, thornveld and riverine woodlands in dry areas.

Main diet items - Food

Hoopoes dart around at ground level collecting insects, small reptiles like lizards which they find in the ground and in animal faecal matter. They disrupt and turn over fallen leaves and plant matter and probe the ground for insects and food and then use their sharp bills for locating their prey. They will also consume small amounts of seeds and occasionally berries, but not in large amounts, preferring insects and beetles etc.

African Hoopoe 800 food Brian

Breeding and nesting habits

The Hoopoe is a cavity nester (in tree holes, either natural or made by barbets or woodpeckers) or will happily use a hollow in a pile of boulders or cavities in buildings, always chosen and protected by the male. They lay from four to seven eggs over a period of a few days (sometimes taking a days break in-between). Once she has finished laying all her eggs, the female alone will incubate the eggs for 14 - 16 days. Once hatched, the male does the hunting for the chicks for the first week of their lives and then the female gets involved in the feeding of her young.


African Hoopoe forages on the ground, probing the leaf-litter with its slender bill. It walks easily and may run, with some movements of the head, and stopping frequently to probe, dig and pick food off the ground. It snatches up insects in its long bill, and before to eat, it beats them on the ground to remove legs and wings. Then, it tosses up the prey and catches it in its open bill. 
African Hoopoe’s crest is depressed when at rest or quiet, but when it is alarmed or excited, crest erects in beautiful circular shape.

Voice | sing

"Hoop-oop" or "Hoop-oop-oop", typically with all notes at the same pitch

Threats | Status | Conservation

Not threatened, although out-competed for nesting sites in urban areas by the Common starling.

African Hoopoe with Mole Cricket 800 brian


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