'Hoopoe' bird said to be named after its call
It's nice to see swallows and the regulars spring migrant birds back again and it's always interesting when unusual species turn up often heralded by a voice on the 'phone saying: 'I've never seen the like of it before.'
My caller was a farmer who spotted an unusual bird in the land. April is an extra busy time of year for farmers but my caller was so taken with the unusual sight that he found a few minutes to compile an excellent description leaving me in no doubt that what he had seen was a Hoopoe.
The Hoopoe is such an exotic and distinctive-looking bird it cannot be confused with anything else. The size of a Mistle Thrush, it has a pale buff-brown body, boldly-patterned black and white wings, a very distinctive long, thin, down-curved, tapering bill and an even more distinctive crest crowning its head.
The crest is like a fan and is normally closed. When the bird is alarmed or alighting the crest often fans open.
The word 'Hoopoe' is pronounced both 'hu-pu' and 'hu-po' and the bird is said to be named after its call. The species is native to north-west Africa, southern Spain, the Canary Islands and the Red Sea area. By popular vote in 2008 it was selected the national bird of Israel.
Come springtime, Hoopoes migrate north and north-east and are found breeding in large areas of Europe and Asia. On the Atlantic fringe, birds seldom migrate farther than northern France.
However, some overshoot especially when aided by a strong tailwind and end up in Ireland. Normally only a few to a handful of Hoopoes arrive in Ireland each spring. They leave again so they are regarded as rare vagrants.
This spring is an exception. Hoopoes are turning up in Ireland in larger numbers and are worth watching out for.