The Ceylon Hoopoe is a subspecies of the Common or Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops), an Old World inhabitant also accoring in China, Africa and Europe, but usually not in Britain (though sightings occured). Since 2008, the hoopoe is the national bird of Israel. In Aristophanes’ comedy “The Birds”, the hoopoe is the king of the birds. Eating Hoopoes is prohibited by the Bible.
The Common Hoopoe is the only extant species in the family Upupidae, unless the Madagascar subspecies is elevated to a destinctive species. Nearest relatives are the “Wood Hoopoes”, an African bird family. Bee-eaters and Kingfishers belong to the same clade, too.
“Hoopoe” is an onomatopoetic name because of his voice sonding like “oop-oop-oop”, particularly during mating season. Sinhalese call this bird “Porojurulla”, Tamils “Chaval-kuruvi”.The Hindi name is “Hudhud”, the German name is “Wiedehopf”.
The Hoopoe is easily to recognize, there are no bird species of similar appearance in Sri Lanka. It is strikingly patternd in pinkish-cinnamon, black and white. The sexes are alike. The Ceylon subspecies is is the darkest and smallest of all Hoopoes, they are more rufous overall and have no white in the crest. The wingspan is about 44 mm. The striking distinctive feature of Hoopoes is this feather crown. While hunting, the crest is depressed and sticks out behind the head, but it is erected when the Hoopoe’s suspicions are aroused or when landing after a flight. Hoopoes enjoy sunbathing, by spreading out their wings, and taking dust and sand baths.
The Hoopoe is resident in open country with some trees. sparsely distributed throughout the dry lowlands. It avoids both deep forests and open plains without any trees. The main habitat zones in Sri Lanka are the Northern Province and Hambantota District, but it also occurs in the Uva hills up to 1300 m altitude and can even be spotted, on rare occasions, in the wetlands near Colombo. The Ceylon Hoopoe is not shy, besides wildlife areas it also inhabits farmland, villages, parks and gardens.
Like African Hoopoes, the Ceylon subspecies cannot be called migratory, but it is found outside its normal breeding area, and wanders during rainy or cold periods. Possibly there is some migration between Sri Lanka and South India. South-Indian Hoopoes, belonging to the same subspecies ceylonensis, are much more similar to Sri Lanka`s Hoopoes than to Northwest-Indian Hoopoes. Hoopoes in northern India can be summer visitors in the Himalayas. European and North-Asian Hoopoes migrate to the tropics in winter.
The Hoopoe spends much of its time on short grass, feeding mainly on insects taken on ground by turning over fallen leaves. Favourite food are beetles and other insects. Worms, pupae, small reptiles, frogs and young rodents belong to their diet, too, they sometimes eat plants such as seeds and berries.
Hoopoes build their nests in holes in trees, cliffs, banks or buildings. Breeding season is November to April and possibly again in July. Hoopoes live often in pairs or loose groups. Probably some of them are consorts for life, similar to many other bird species. The female alone incubates, then fed by her husband. The incubation period is about a fortnight.
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