THE HUD-HUD (Hoopoe)

WHAT IS A HUD HUD?

The hud-hud (or Hoopoe) is a bird that is commonly found across Africa, Asia and Europe.

We have become very fond of these interesting birds, as we often see them foraging on the ground when we have our early morning walks, all year round.

The common name of the bird is an onomatopoeic name: it is named after the sound it produces: the call is a short 3-5 times repeated ‘hud’ sound.

The scientific name is:

Upupa Epops.  We prefer the onomatopoeic version!

WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?

They are rather striking in appearance. The most notable feature is their “crown” of 28 feathers. These feathers let you know how the hud-hud is feeling. If he is happy and calm, the feathers will be at rest, flat on his head. If however he is feeling excited or agitated, he puffs them out, looking rather like Mohawk, in the beautiful pinky-orange colour, with striking black and white tips. He looks both beautiful and a little more dangerous!

The bills are long and tapering, which makes us realise he is NOT a woodpecker (if he way, the beak would be shorter and stronger). 

The lower half of his body and wings are a striking black and white striped colour, and the rest of him is a pale, pink-orange colour. 

Their striped wings are rounded and strong, and in flight resemble more a butterfly than a bird. Their “flapping” is more erratic and uneven than usual for a bird!

WHAT SIZE ARE THEY?

They are considered a medium sized bird: around 30 cm in length, a wing span of around 46 cm, weighing in around 72g. 

WHAT DO THEY EAT?

They eat a vast buffet of insects, for example: grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, beetles, ants

They also eat small reptiles, frogs, seeds and berries. They are usually solitary, foraging happily on the ground. They look for food on the surface and under the ground, their beaks “digging” into the ground looking for delicious insects. They beat these insects against a surface to kill them, and open up the hard covering to get to the yummy softness inside!

WHERE DO THEY LIVE?

They can be found anywhere that has 2 of their basic life requirements:

  1. Lightly vegetated ground
  2. Vertical services that have ready made cavities (holes) for them to nest in (trees, cliffs, vertical surfaces or even man-made nest-boxes)

3.  INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE HUD-HUDS:

  1. They love to sunbathe! They will spread out their wings, with their tails low, and tilt their head up to the sun, showing off their striking plumage. They also like to take sand or dust baths.
  2. They have a stinky way to ward off predators (particularly when the female is incubating or brooding her young. She will produce a fouls smelling liquid and rub it into her plumage, and her nestlings. It smells like rotting meat, which is a big deterrent to parasites and predators. She will also strike at them will her bill and one of her wings: she is a feisty little bird!           After 6 days, the nestlings themselves have their own protective strategy: they direct streams of faeces (poop0 at the intruders and will also hiss at them in a snake-like manner. The mother 
  3. They are referred to as “Old World” birds:
  • they were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt, and pictures of them can be found on the walls of tombs and temples. In the Old Kingdom, the symbol of a Hud-hud would indicate the child who would be the heir and successor to his father.
  • In the book of Leviticus (11:9) in the bible, it is stated that he is not to be eaten.
  • In Persia, he is considered a symbol of virtue.
  • He is mentioned in the Quran in connection with Solomon (Surah Al-Naml) as a trusted messenger
  • In Europe in the past, he was considered evil
  • In Morocco he is traded live and is used for medicinal products.
  • In Israel, he is the national bird.

So whenever you are in Egypt, keep you eye open for this beautiful little feisty bird, as they jauntily forage in the mornings, with their distinctive and cheerful colouring. But if that striking mowhawk appears, be careful!!!