Thursday, November 6, 2014

Common Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

Field marks: (25-30cm.) Long bill, large frilled crest, brown head, chest and back, black and white striped wings and tail
戴胜 – dài-shèng – ‘wear headdress’

The Common Hoopoe is perhaps the most unique and interesting bird in China. Its odd name is the phonic transcription of the sound of its voice. It is another widespread species that is found throughout much of Eurasia and Africa. It is one of the few species of birds in the world that does not have other close relatives among the bird world. Not only does the hoopoe have its own genus and species, this single species has its own family as well. Most bird species have close cousins who share its genus and family. The hoopoe’s status as a sole species in the family, upupidae, makes it a bird of particular interest.

The hoopoe is instantly recognizable and unmistakable and is aesthetically pleasing to watch. The hoopoe could only possibly be confused with a woodpecker, a type of bird it is distantly related to, but its curved, thin bill instantly distinguishes it from the woodpecker clan.

The hoopoe is a well-loved species throughout its range due to its consumption of many insects that are considered crop damaging pests such as grasshoppers and locusts. Due to this fact, many countries have set up protective measures to ensure its survival. It will also eat small vertebrates such as lizards and frogs. The hoopoe feeds by probing the ground with its long sensitive bill and extracting tasty morsels.

Throughout its range, the hoopoe is population is strong. In China, the hoopoe is also doing well and is fairly common. However, the hoopoe is not so common that it is often seen on city streets and parks, so seeing one is always a treat.

The hoopoe has an undulating flight much like the movement of an amusement park roller coaster. Upon alighting on a perch and when alarmed, the hoopoe flashes its frilled head crest.

The hoopoe has achieved legendary status in many old world cultures around the world. In ancient Egypt and Minoa, it was depicted on temple walls. In ancient Greece, it was credited as the “king of birds” in literary works. It is the national bird of Israel, and deserves greater recognition in China.
Photo by Brian Westland

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