Birds of Egypt: “Hud Hud,” The Hoopoe

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"Hud Hud," The Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

This nice little guy is a frequent visitor around our farm. Most of the time, I hear him before I see him, because his colors make him blend in with his environment so well. “Hooooodhoodhoodhoodhood!” He announces his presence happily, not loudly, but subtly, serenely, wherever he goes. Usually five times in quick succession, and the first “hood” is drawn out, while the last four follow like quick drumbeats. I feel he’s a very peaceful bird, traveling calmly from here, to there, and on to the next place, with great interest in his surroundings. He never stays long, but his song remains always in my ears, hoping to catch it, and a glimpse of him, again!

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The Hoopoe is so named because, to the Western ear, his call sounds like “hoop hoop hoop.” But in Arabic there is no “p” sound, as this sound is interpreted as a “b.” So, for example, when in Egypt, you must ask for a “Bibsy, bleez!” Instead of the more famous and familiar, “Pepsi, please!” And for lunch, you might go to “Bizza Hut” on Tahrir Square in Cairo. Perhaps the “b” sound is stronger in arabic, too, and for this reason the soft consonantal sound on the end of the hud hud’s call sounds more like a “d.” (To be honest, it sounds that way to me, too) Hence the difference in interpretation of the call of the hoopoe, and of the transliteration of his name to “Hud Hud!”

Hear a recording of the call of the Hud Hud/Hoopoe Bird found Here:

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"Hud Hud" Hunting for a breakfast of bugs

Here is a quote I found very interesting, from an excellent blog post on the Hoopoe Bird from muslimkids.wordpress.com: (please click the link to enjoy the whole article!)

In the Quran (27:20) we read that Prophet Solomon reviewed his birds and found the hoopoe (hud-hud) missing. His most mobile arm was the birds, which were light on the wing and flew and saw everything like efficient scouts. Prophet Solomon expressed his anger and his desire to punish the hoopoe severely if it did not present itself before him with a reasonable excuse. Within a short while the hoopoe returned saying,

“I have obtained knowledge of things which you have no knowledge. I have brought sure information about Saba (Sheba, a well-known rich people of southern Arabia, now the present day Yemen. Their capitol city was Ma’rib which lay about 55 miles to the north-east of Sana, the present capitol of Yemen). There I have seen a woman ruling over her people: she has been given all sorts of provisions, and she has a splendid throne. I saw that she and her people prostrate themselves before the sun, instead of Allah!”

King Soloman and the Queen of Sheba are also famous in the Christian and Jewish Faiths for the great love between them, immortalized in the incredibly beautiful Old Testament Book, “The Song of Soloman.” Now you know it was the “Hud Hud” bird that was responsible for bringing them together!

They have ancient Egyptian roots, as well, which is related on Wikipedia’s List of Birds of Egypt:

Hoopoes

Order: Coraciiformes. Family: Upupidae

Hoopoes have black, white and orangey-pink colouring with a large erectile crest on their head. There are 2 species worldwide and 1 species which occur in Egypt.

Hoopoe Upupa epops; Anc.E.g.: hieroglyph of the bird almost always used as or in the word db ‘sundried brick’ (literal meaning: ‘one that blocks up’); therefore one of the ancient names must have been Db(3)w/Db(3).t ‘the one who blocks up (its nest hole’)’; a later name would be q(w)q(w)p.t > Coptic KOUKOUPAT/KRAPEP e.a. comparable to Biblical dukhiphat (literal meaning unknown)

And now, for all the facts you never imagined learning about the “Hud Hud” Bird, we return once again to Wikipedia’s awesome page on the Hoopoe:

The  /ˈhuːpuː/ (Upupa epops) is a colourful bird that is found across Afro-Eurasia, notable for its distinctive ‘crown’ of feathers. It is the only extant species in the family. One insular species, the Saint Helena Hoopoe, is extinct, and the Madagascar subspecies of the Hoopoe is sometimes elevated to a full species. Like the Latin name upupa, the English name is an onomatopoeic form which imitates the cry of the bird.

Taxonomy and systematics

The Hoopoe is classified in the Coraciiformes clade, a group that also includes kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, and woodhoopoes (forming a clade with this one[2]). A close relationship between the Hoopoe and the woodhoopoes is also supported by the shared and unique nature of their stapes.[3] In the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, the Hoopoe is separated from the Coraciiformes as a separate order, the Upupiformes. Some authorities place the woodhoopoes in the Upupiformes as well.[4]

The fossil record of the hoopoes is very incomplete, with the earliest fossil coming from the Quaternary.[5] The fossil record of their relatives is older, with fossil woodhoopoes dating back to the Miocene and those of an extinct related family, the Messelirrisoridae, dating from the Eocene.[4]

It is the only extant member of its family, although some treatments consider some of the subspecies as separate species. Several authors have separated the Madagascan subspecies (U. e. marginata) as a separate species, and also the resident African form U. e. africana. The morphological differences between the most commonly split subspecies, U. e. marginata, and the other subspecies are minor, and only U. e. marginata has distinctly different vocalisations.[6] One accepted separate species, the Saint Helena Hoopoe, U. antaios, lived on the island of St Helena but became extinct in the sixteenth century, presumably due to introduced species.[5]

The genus Upupa was created by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758. It then included three other species with long curved bills:[7]

U. eremita (now Geronticus eremita), the Northern Bald IbisU. pyrrhocorax (now Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), the Red-billed ChoughU. paradisea Subspecies[edit]

U. e. epops in Galicia, Spain.

Nine subspecies of Hoopoe are recognised by the Kristin 2001 (in the Handbook of the Birds of the World), with these subspecies varying mostly in size and the depth of colour in the plumage. Two further subspecies have been proposed, U. e. minor in South Africa and U. e. orientalis in north western India.

Description

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 (1.6–3.1 oz). 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, caused by the wings half closing at the end of each beat or short sequence of beats.[6]

The call is typically a trisyllabic oop-oop-oop, which gives rise to its English and scientific names, although two and four syllables are also common. In the Himalayas, the calls can be confused with that of the Himalayan Cuckoo (Cuculus saturatus) although the cuckoo typically produces four notes. Other calls include rasping croaks, when alarmed, and hisses. A wheezy note is produced by females during courtship feeding by the male.[8] Both genders, when disturbed, call a roughcharrrrrr, strongly reminiscent of the warning cry of the Eurasian Jay. The food begging call of the nestlings is similar to a Common Swift tiiii.

Distribution and habitat

The Hoopoe is widespread in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar.[6] Most European and north Asian birds migrate to the tropics in winter.[9] In contrast the African populations are sedentary year-round. The species has been a vagrant in Alaska;[10] U. e. saturata was recorded as being seen there in 1975 in the Yukon Delta.[11] Hoopoes have been known to breed north of their European range,[12]and in southern England during warm, dry summers that provide plenty of grasshoppers and similar insects,[13] although as of the early 1980s northern European populations were reported to be in the decline possibly due to changes in climate.[12]

The Hoopoe has two basic requirements in its habitat; bare or lightly vegetated ground on which to forage and vertical surfaces with cavities (such as trees, cliffs or even walls, nestboxes, haystacks, and abandoned burrows[12]) in which to nest. These requirements can be provided in a wide range of ecosystems and as a consequence they inhabit a wide range of habitats from heathland, wooded steppes, savannas and grasslands, as well as glades inside forests. The Madagascar subspecies also makes use of more dense primary forest. The modification of natural habitats by humans for various agricultural purposes has led to them becoming common in olive groves, orchards, vineyards, parkland and farmland, although they are less common and declining in intensively farmed areas.[6] Hunting is of concern in southern Europe and Asia.[11]

Hoopoes make seasonal movements in response to rain in some regions such as in Ceylon and in the Western Ghats.[14] Birds have been seen at high altitudes during migration across the Himalayas and was recorded at about 6400 m by the first Mount Everest Expedition.[8]

Behaviour and ecology

In what was long thought to be a defensive posture, Hoopoes sunbathe by spreading out their wings and tail low against the ground and tilting their head up; they often fold their wings and preen halfway through.[15] The Hoopoe also enjoys taking dust and sand baths.[16]

Diet and feeding

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. More rarely they will feed in the air, in pursuit of numerous swarming insects, where their strong and rounded wings make them fast and manoeuvrable. More commonly their foraging style is to stride on relatively open ground and periodically pause to probe the ground with the full length of their bill. Insect larvae, pupae and mole crickets are detected by the bill and either extracted or dug out with the strong feet. In addition to feeding in soil Hoopoes will feed on insects on the surface, as well as probing into piles of leaves and even using the bill to lever large stones and flake off bark. Common diet items include crickets, locusts, beetles, earwigs, cicadas, ant lions, bugs and ants. These can range from 10 to 150 mm in length, with the preferred size of prey being around 20–30 mm. Larger prey items are beaten against the ground or a preferred stone in order to kill them and remove indigestible body parts such as wings and legs.[6]

Breeding

The Hoopoe is monogamous, although the pair bond apparently only lasts for a single season. They are also territorial, with the male calling frequently to advertise his ownership of the territory. Chases and fights between rival males (and sometimes females) are common and can be brutal.[6]Birds will try to stab rivals with their bills, and individuals are occasionally blinded in fights.[17] The nest is in a hole in a tree or wall, with a narrow entrance;[16] it may be unlined or various scraps may be collected.[12] The female alone is responsible for incubating the eggs. Clutch size varies with location, with northern hemisphere birds laying more eggs than those in the southern hemisphere and birds in higher latitudes having larger clutches than those closer to the equator. 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.[6] They weigh 4.5 grams.[15] A replacement clutch is possible.[12]

The Hoopoes have well-developed anti-predator defences in the nest. The uropygial gland of the incubating and brooding female is quickly modified to produce a foul-smelling liquid, and the glands of nestlings do so as well. These secretions are rubbed into the plumage. The secretion, which smells like rotting meat, is thought to help deter predators, as well as deter parasites and possibly act as an antibacterial agent.[18] The secretions stop soon before the young leave the nest.[15] In addition to this secretion nestlings are able to direct streams of faeces at nest intruders from the age of six days, and will also hiss at intruders in a snake like fashion.[6] The young also strike with their bill or with one wing.[15]

The incubation period for the species is between 15 and 18 days. During incubation the female is fed by the male. The incubation period begins as soon as the first egg is laid, so the chicks are born asynchronously. The chicks hatch with a covering of downy feathers, by around day three to five feather quills emerge which become adult feathers. The chicks are brooded by the female for between 9 to 14 days.[6] The female later joins the male in the task of bringing food.[16] The young fledge in 26 to 29 days and remain with the parents for about a week.[12]

Relationship with humans

The diet of the Hoopoe includes many species considered to be pests by humans; for example the pupae of the processionary moth, a damaging forest pest.[19] For this reason the species is afforded protection under the law in many countries.[6]

Hoopoes are distinctive birds and have made a cultural impact over much of their range. They were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt, so they were “depicted on the walls of tombs and temples”. They achieved a similar standing in Minoan Crete.[15]

In the Bible, Leviticus 11:13–19, hoopoes were listed among the animals that are detestable and should not be eaten. They are also listed in Deuteronomy (14:18[20]) as not kosher.

Hoopoes also appear in the Quran in Surah Al-Naml 27:20–22 in the following context “And he Solomon sought among the birds and said: How is it that I see not the hoopoe, or is he among the absent? (20) I verily will punish him with hard punishment or I verily will slay him, or he verily shall bring me a plain excuse. (21) But he [the Hoopoe] was not long in coming, and he said: I have found out (a thing) that thou apprehendest not, and I come unto thee from Sheba with sure tidings.”

Hoopoes were seen as a symbol of virtue in Persia. A hoopoe was the leader of the birds in the Persian book of poems The Conference of the Birds.

They were thought of as thieves across much of Europe and harbingers of war in Scandinavia.[21] Also, in Estonian tradition the Hoopoes are strongly connected with death and the underworld, their song is seen as a forebode of death for many a people or cattle.[22]

The Hoopoe is the king of the birds in the Ancient Greek comedy The Birds by Aristophanes. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book 6, King Tereus of Thrace, married to Procne, rapes his wife’s sister, Philomela and cuts out her tongue. In revenge, Procne kills their son Itys and serves him as a stew to his father. When Tereus sees the boy’s head, which is served on a platter, he grabs a sword but just as he attempts to kill the sisters, they are turned into birds—Procne into a swallow and Philomela into a nightingale. Tereus himself is turned into an epops (6.674), translated as lapwing by Dryden[23] and lappewincke (lappewinge) by John Gower in his Confessio Amantis,[24] or hoopoe, in A.S. Kline’s translation.[25] The bird’s crest indicates his royal status and his long, sharp beak is a symbol of his violent nature. English translators and poets probably had the Northern lapwing in mind, considering its crest.

The Hoopoe was chosen as the national bird of Israel in May 2008 in conjunction with the country’s 60th anniversary, following a national survey of 155,000 citizens, outpolling the White-spectacled Bulbul.[26][not in citation given] It is also the state-bird of Punjab province of India. The Hoopoe appears on the Logo of the University of Johannesburg, and is the official mascot of the University’s sports. The municipality of Armstedt, Germany has a hoopoe in its coat of arms.

Learn even more at the Internet Bird Collection, here: http://ibc.lynxeds.com/species/hoopoe-upupa-epops

Click Here for the Next Bird in the series, “Fairuz,” The Collared Kingfisher
OR Click Here for the Previous Bird in the Series, “Cleopatra,” The Green Bee-Eater

;^)

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19 thoughts on “Birds of Egypt: “Hud Hud,” The Hoopoe

  1. Pingback: Rare hornbill chicks hatch | Dear Kitty. Some blog

    • Wow, I didn’t know that! Maybe because of his close relationship with the Prophet Sulaiman (a.s.)? Soloman is known as the wisest king… assuredly because of his close relationship with Allah s.w.t.!

  2. Pingback: Hoopoes and their eggs, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. They’re gorgeous birds, ones I’ve only been fortunate enough to see in pictures, so I loved to read more about them and see photos of your beautiful friend! Thanks, Aisha!!
    xoxo

    Kathryn

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