CSS3 Rollover Button by Css3Menu.com

CSS3 Rollover Button by Css3Menu.com

HOOPOE - The more exotic wing of Aosta Valley
by Alain Ghignone

A "floreal" Hoopoe, so to speak

Each year, in Aosta Vally, I use to repeat my meeting, close and long-lasting, with these wonderful birds; Needless to say, this photographic experience is one of the most pleasant, fascinated and wanted. They stretch their necks and raise the crest if annoyed. Their leaps backward to fly and their bickering, make them, without doubt, one of my favorite subjects.

The hoopoe (Upupa epops) is a bird along between 25 and 29 centimeters and has a wingspan between 44 and 48 cm. The plumage is unmistakable, very light brown on top and white-black horizontal stripes on the wings and tail. The head has a tuft of feathers with black apex that are raised when the bird is annoyed or when the male performs his wedding parade. The bill is quite long, thin and slightly curved downward, the tongue is tiny and unsuitable for mouthing the insects on which it feeds. For this the hoopoe spear its prey on air and resumes them with mouth wide open to swallow them. His flight is light and quiet and seems to a large butterfly.

The "wings of Freedom", looks like a landing, but it's a take-off!

Every year, on time, the hoopoe arrive in Aosta Valley from sub-Saharan Africa at the beginning of April. Males posted on the trees, which begin to put forth leaves, recall with insistence females with their song repetitive and recognizable.

The call of love; the Hoopoe swollen neck to emit its song.

When they arrive in the area the male use to court them offering insects and larvae that are in the ground and lift the erectile feathers of the head. Formed the couple, together, they begin the search for some crevice in the walls or old woodpecker nests unused to nest between May and June.
The female broods continuously for about 15 days, during which only the male feeds her bringing the food two or three times an hour. The hoopoe can lay up to seven eggs, but usually litters consist of 2 or 4 chicks who manage to fly away. For about 15 days both adults bring food to the chicks leaving the nest usually in June. A much sought after and coveted prey, for adults and children is the mole cricket, a real scourge for gardens and shrub crops, why hoopoes animals are very useful and appreciated by all farmers.

Supply to chicks; and as often it happens this time a mole cricket

After leaving the nest hoopoes roam in freshly mowed lawns, in gardens and vineyards in search of food until the young are old enough and strong to make the trip back to Africa where they will spend the winter.
Hoopoes are not birds who make their migration in flocks, but are quite sociable and, in the post nesting, new families are used to meet in places where food is abundant and this sometimes creates small disputes between the parties ... a boon for photographers.

The Musketeers: bickering between strangers

A unique feature of the hoopoe, that I have seen in these four years of stalking, surveys and photographs, is their absolute independence from the water. I've never seen drink, not even a sip of water. I think they have almost an aversion to this element, such as for a wash and cleanse from parasites, which can live under their feathers, never use water, but they usually take sand baths even daily.

The wash of hoopoe: the “Bain de sable”

The complete gallery, with my best shots of recent years, ca be visited on my personal website, on this page

Alain Ghignone
all images and texts reserved

© 2015 ECHOESOFWILD - FIne Art Wildlife Photography - all right reserved