Common hoopoe

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The common hoopoe (Upupa epops) belongs to the family of hoopoes, Upupidae.

These hoopoe species are widely distributed and occur in Indian subcontinent, Asia, Europe and Africa. Including the Madagascar hoopoe, there are only two extant species in the family Upupidae. The common hoopoes in the northern range are migratory, moving to tropical and subtropical regions for wintering. There are eight recognized subspecies of the common hoopoe.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Common hoopoe Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Common hoopoe - Overview

  • Scientific name: Upupa epops
  • Species author: Linnaeus, 1758
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Upupa Epops Linnaeus, 1758
  • Family: Upupidae › Bucerotiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Common hoopoe, Chinese: 戴胜, French: Huppe fasciée, German: Wiedehopf, Spanish: Abubilla común, Russian: Удод, Japanese: ヤツガシラ, Indonesian: Burung Hupo Tunggal, Malay: Burung Huphup
  • Other names: Eurasian Hoopoe, Central African Hoopoe, European Hoopoe
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, Asia, Europe, Africa
  • Diet and feeding habits: large insects, crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, beetles, centipedes
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The eight recognized subspecies of the common hoopoe are: Upupa epops epops Linnaeus, 1758, U. e. major C. L. Brehm, 1855, U. e. senegalensis Swainson, 1837, U. e. waibeli Reichenow, 1913, U. e. saturata Lönnberg, 1909, U. e. ceylonensis Reichenbach, 1853, U. e. longirostris Jerdon, 1862 and U. e. africana Bechstein, 1811.

Appearance, physical description and identification

The common hoopoe (Upupa epops) is a colorful medium-sized bird in the order Bucerotiformes, comprising hornbills, hoopoes and woodhoopoes.
The common hoopoe measures 20 to 30 cm in length and weighs 45 to 90 grams. The wingspan is 45 to 50 cm. It has a distinctive crest having broad cinnamon feathers with black tips. The crest is erect only when the bird is alarmed or displaying. The overall plumage is pale cinnamon color. There are contrasting black and white stripes on its wings and tail. The mantle is grayish cinnamon.

The wings are broad and rounded and the tail is square shaped. The gray, long and slender bill is slightly curved downward. The irises are dark brown. The legs and feet are gray. The female and juvenile have paler plumage. Their call is a repeated loud "hoo poo" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Common hoopoe - Upupa epops
Birds of India - Image of Common hoopoe - Upupa epops by Antony Grossy
Birds of India - Image of Common hoopoe - Upupa epops
Indian birds - Photo of Common hoopoe - Upupa epops by Martin Mecnarowski
Indian birds - Photo of Common hoopoe - Upupa epops
Birds of India - Picture of Common hoopoe - Upupa epops by Antony Grossy

Origin, geographical range and distribution

These common hoopoe species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, Asia, Europe and Africa.

The nominate common hoopoe subspecies U. e. epops (Eurasian Hoopoe) is distributed in northwestern Africa, Canary Islands, central and southern Europe, Middle East, East and south central Russia, Northwest China and Northwest India. The subspecies U. e. major is distributed in Egypt, Sudan and Chad.

The hoopoe subspecies U. e. senegalensis is distributed in Algeria, Senegal, Ethiopia and Somalia. The common hoopoe subspecies U. e. waibeli is distributed in Cameroon, Congo, Uganda and Kenya. The subspecies U. e. saturata is distributed in south and central Russia, eastern Russia, Korea, Japan, and central and south China.

The hoopoe subspecies U. e. ceylonensis is distributed in Pakistan, north India and Sri Lanka. The subspecies U. e. longirostris is distributed in northeastern India, Bangladesh, southern China, south Myanmar, south Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The common hoopoe subspecies U. e. africana (African Hoopoe) is distributed in Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Sudan.

Ecosystem and habitat

These hoopoe species do not normally occur in forests. They inhabit various artificial and natural open, dry ecosystems. They inhabit rural gardens and parks, urban areas, orchards, sand-heathland, olive groves, plantations, vineyards, steppe, dry savanna, temperate grasslands and tropical and subtropical dry grasslands. These hoopoe species occur in altitudes from 0 to 3650 meters.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these common hoopoe species is mostly large insects. Large insects like crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, beetles, locusts, earwigs, ant lions, bugs and large ants and their land-dwelling larvae and pupae are the primary food. The common hoopoes are also known to feed on small reptiles, frogs, centipedes, earthworms, seeds and berries. They also 'hawk' swarming insects. The long bill is used to probe ground and dig out the prey in hiding.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these common hoopoe species is from January to August in Europe, Asia north of the Himalayan foothills, northern Africa, and the northern and central parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The breeding season is from August to January in East Africa and July to December in South Africa.

The common hoopoe species are monogamous. They are territorial breeders, males defending their breeding territory. They nest in tree holes, natural cavities among boulders and holes in man-made structures, including nest boxes. The common hoopoe nest is usually unlined, but sometimes lined with grass and leaves.

The common hoopoe clutch consists of seven to eight spherical and very pale blue eggs. The male feeds the incubating female. The eggs hatch in about 15 to 18 days. The female and the hatchlings produce a foul smelling fluid from their uropygial gland (preen gland or oil gland), probably to deter predators. The young fledge in 25 to 30 days.

Migration and movement patterns

The common hoopoe populations in the northern ranges in Europe and Asia are fully migratory and move to southern parts of the range for wintering.
The populations in the south are resident and stationary. Post breeding dispersal of the juveniles takes place. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the common hoopoe (Upupa epops) is estimated at 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 individual birds. The overall population size of these species is considered to be under decline. Throughout its ranges it is reported to be common to uncommon. The generation length is 6 years.

The common hoopoe (Upupa epops) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. Habitat loss and over-hunting are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the common hoopoe species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the common hoopoe (Upupa epops).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Upupa epops
Species:U. epops
Binomial name:Upupa epops
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source:
Image author: Antony Grossy | License: CC BY 2.0 (as on 2016-12-25)
2.Image source:
Image author: Martin Mecnarowski ( | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
3.Image source:
Image author: Antony Grossy | License: CC BY 2.0 (as on 2016-12-25)
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