Hip, hip, hooray! And hoopoe!

Not too many days ago, I saw a hoopoe — actually, three of them — for the first time since moving to France nearly nine years ago.

I can just imagine you asking: And what is a hoopoe, pray tell? Well, it’s a bird that’s evidently not easy to spot, and is quite an unusual little beast.

Funnily enough, my wife Jan actually remembered learning about the bird from our good friend Darlene, who is a frequent visitor to France from her home in Toronto. Darlene recently told me she had seen a hoopoe (huppe in French) just once, in the Bergerac area.

With no further ado, here’s a look at the hoopoe, in a photo I was able to access on the Internet:

Sort of a strange birdie, I think.

My sighting occurred as I drove slowly into the déchetterie (the series of bins where we take our garbage and recycling) near Daglan’s municipal rugby field.

I spotted three  birds pecking at the ground in front of the garbage bins, and first thought they were mourning doves, because their plumage featured some of that lovely soft beige colour. Then I realized that they were smaller than doves and had very long beaks, like the shore birds I used to see on the beach in Florida, where I grew up. Finally, I saw that there was something emerging from the backs of their heads.

I crept my car forward, hoping to get as close as possible to take a photo. But when I opened my car door, as slowly and quietly as possible, they flew off.

Later I described my sighting to a local friend, Laura, who said the bird was most likely the hoopoe, and that they often fly to France from Africa at this time of the year, as the African weather becomes too hot.

Eventually I got around to some Internet research, and learned that there are three separate species of the hoopoe — the Eurasian, the Madagascan, and the African — and nine sub-species. Apparently they spend winters in central and eastern Africa. Finally, I learned to my surprise that the hoopoe is the national bird of Israel. Go figure!

Finally, here’s another photo from the Internet, showing how that little clump of feathers on their heads can open out:

Wow! Quite a showboater.

I suppose that many people consider this an attractive bird, but I can’t say it’s in my top 10. In fact, it reminds me a bit of that old adage that “a camel is a horse designed by a committee.”

This entry was posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Hip, hip, hooray! And hoopoe!

  1. rosemarie Pasdar says:

    Great post Lauren – I’ll be on the lookout for them – I suspect they are a bit disappointed not to find cooler temps here 😊



  2. Karen Lassman says:

    Cool-looking bird. We saw a strange bird similar to that once in our yard and it wasn’t in the Florida bird finder.
    You have to drive to the recycle bins? How much wine are y’all drinking?

  3. Theresa says:

    We saw three of them last year in Judith’s garden. Wonder if these are the same three? It would be lovely if they become regular visitors as I do think they are beautiful 😁 Thanks for telling us about them.

  4. alifeincenac says:

    They’re a marvellous looking bird aren’t they – we had one fly low over the garden yesterday evening – unmistakable by the black and white striped wings and “rollercoaster” flight pattern. We also had a pair in our garden (Cenac – up the hill from Daglan) one morning in early April – obviously looking for somewhere to nest – perhaps they found Daglan more enticing?

    We’ve seen them several times before when camping in the south west and near Cluny.

    The most “exotic” birds I’ve seen here this year – (nearing the end of our first year in France) – is a few bee eaters which occasionally perch on the phone wires near the top of our drive.

  5. David says:

    I live in SW Florida and early this year I saw a very odd bird outside my window. I hastily scribbled noted and made a drawing, noting the large size as well. Reached for my camera a foot away and it caused the bird to fly away. Researching the bird from my description, it was 100% a hoopoe ! Als, no photo, no proof.

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