The Hoopoe, scientifically known as (Upupa epops), is one of the most unusual and endearing bird species found in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Hoopoe is a sight to behold in the UAE’s various landscapes, with its unmistakable colorful plumage, long curved beak, and fan-shaped crest on its head.
The Hoopoe has a wide distribution from Europe to the Asian Pacific coast and throughout Africa. Scientists have delineated three species of Hoopoes on the basis of their distribution.
This bird, known as ‘Hudhud’ in Arabic, is firmly ingrained in Middle Eastern culture, having been described in religious writings and old folk stories. As a result, the Hoopoe is not just a fascinating subject for birdwatchers and photographers, but also a symbol of regional cultural history.
The remarkable appearance of the Hoopoe is simply one aspect of its attractiveness. Its broad rounded wings contrast sharply in flight with black and white patterns, while its body is a deep cinnamon color that stands out amid the UAE’s primarily desert terrain. It has a long, thin probing bill that it uses to delve into the earth in search of its favorite prey, insects, and grubs.
The Hoopoe’s crest is equally appealing, a stunning arrangement of feathers that it can raise and lower at leisure, displaying a strong black and white pattern. The crest is generally held flat, but it is elevated when the bird is alarmed or excited, adding to the bird’s dramatic appearance.
Hoopoes are not restricted to any habitat in the UAE and can be found in a wide range of settings, from urban areas with parks and gardens to rural areas with little vegetation. These birds are normally alone and are more likely to be found on the ground, where they forage for food by probing the earth with their long beaks.
The call of the Hoopoe is as distinct as its appearance, a gentle, low ‘hoo-hoo-hoo’ that may be heard from a considerable distance. During the breeding season, the males make an identifiable series of ‘hoop-hoop-hoop’ sounds, which give rise to the bird’s name.
The Hoopoe’s nesting behaviors are another distinguishing feature. The birds are cavity nesters, and they frequently nest in holes in trees, buildings, or even the ground. To prevent predators, they are known to purposefully contaminate their nests with a powerful, fragrant secretion.
Hoopoes are frequently mentioned in literature and mythology. They were regarded sacred in ancient Egypt, and their image was employed in a variety of art genres. The Quran mentions the bird as part of the story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The Hoopoe was thought to be a messenger between the two, displaying wisdom and intelligence. The bird has cultural significance in other cultures as well; it is the National Bird of Israel, and the Hoopoe appears as a wise figure in Indian literature.
The Hoopoe is an important part of the country’s biodiversity for both local Emiratis and expats in the UAE. The government is working to protect this biodiversity by establishing bird-friendly habitats such as green areas and wetlands.
As climate change and urbanization continue to have an influence on bird populations around the world, the Hoopoe’s existence in the UAE serves as a reminder of the significance of environmental conservation. Every glimpse of this magnificent bird emphasizes the importance of protecting and cherishing the natural world that we share with these amazing creatures.
Finally, the Hoopoe epitomizes the enchantment and diversity of the UAE’s birds. It is a cultural landmark, a compelling sight for bird watchers, and a testament of the country’s commitment to maintaining its diverse wildlife. Keep a look out for this fascinating bird the next time you’re in the UAE. Its allure and beauty will take your breath away.
About the bird
The Eurasian hoopoe (Upupa epops) is a distinctive and colorful bird known for its unique appearance and melodious call.
• Size: The hoopoe measures approximately 25-29 centimeters (9.8-11.4 inches) in length.
• Plumage: The bird has a sandy-brown body with black and white stripes on its wings and tail. Its most notable feature is the large crest on its head, which can be raised or lowered.
• Bill: The hoopoe has a long, slender, and slightly curved bill, adapted for probing the ground in search of food.
• Crest: When excited or displaying, the hoopoe raises its crest, revealing a striking pattern of black and white feathers.
Distribution and Habitat:
• Range: The Eurasian Hoopoe has a vast distribution, found across Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa.
• Habitat: It inhabits a variety of environments, including open woodlands, savannas, grasslands, and agricultural areas. It is particularly associated with areas that offer suitable foraging opportunities, such as meadows, fields, and parks.
Behavior and Diet:
• Foraging: Hoopoes are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a wide variety of invertebrates, including beetles, ants, caterpillars, and earthworms. They use their long bills to probe the soil or probe tree bark in search of prey.
• Nesting: Hoopoes nest in cavities, such as holes in trees, cliffs, or walls. The female lays a clutch of 4-7 eggs, which are incubated by both parents.
• Crest Display: During courtship and territorial displays, the hoopoe raises its crest while emitting a soft, rolling call. This behavior is often accompanied by wing spreading and bowing movements.
Years behind the images
In the vast desert landscape of Dubai, there exists an oasis of natural beauty known as Al Qudra Lakes. This remarkable location has become a sanctuary for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers like myself, offering a mesmerizing backdrop for capturing the wonders of nature. Ever since my journey into wildlife photography began, Al Qudra Lakes became my second home. It was during one of our regular weekend photography hunts that my fellow photographer and I stumbled upon a hidden gem – a nest belonging to the majestic Eurasian hoopoe.
As luck would have it, when we discovered the nest, the chicks were on the brink of taking flight. Realizing the rarity of the opportunity before us, we dedicated ourselves to capturing the essence of this beautiful bird and its two precious chicks. With limited time at hand, we eagerly set up our equipment and patiently waited for the perfect moment to freeze in time.
Recognizing the significance of this find, I enlisted the help of a few like-minded photographers who shared my passion for preserving these extraordinary moments. Together, we spent days, side by side, immersed in the captivating world of the Eurasian hoopoe. Our shared enthusiasm and collective expertise formed an unbreakable bond, as we strived to encapsulate the beauty and grace of these magnificent birds.
The days we spent photographing the Eurasian hoopoe nest were filled with a symphony of camera clicks. With each passing moment, we marveled at the intricate details of their feathers, the tender interactions between the parent and chicks, and the fleeting expressions that revealed their individual personalities. Our lenses became extensions of our souls, capturing the raw emotions and extraordinary moments shared between the Hoopoes.
As I immersed myself in the world of the Eurasian hoopoe, I realized the importance of preserving and protecting these precious creatures and their habitats. Through ,my photographs, I sought to inspire others to appreciate the delicate balance of nature.
PT Aware 10 minutes readRead
PT Aware 10 minutes readRead