Not many South African people will be unfamiliar with the characteristically beautiful voice of the African Hoopoe, which is found in virtually every corner of our country and over most of Africa south of the equator, and is a familiar garden bird in our towns and cities. Many authorities consider the African Hoopoe to only be a subspecies of the Common Hoopoe (Upupa epops africana), with the IUCN showing the species as being distributed widely over sub-Saharan Africa, the North African Coast, Europe, Arabia and Asia and listing it as being of least concern with a population (though thought to be decreasing) of up to 10-million, without specifying how many might remain in their African or southern African range.
The African Hoopoe may be encountered singly, in pairs or in small family groups. They frequent a variety of natural and man-made habitats, though they reach their highest densities in thorny savannas and woodland. Here they forage on the open ground, probing with their long beaks for worms, insects and their larvae hidden in the soil or among leaf litter and dung, occasionally also eating small reptiles, frogs, seeds and berries.
African Hoopoes form monogamous pairs in the breeding season, which spans spring and summer. They nest in cavities in trees, rock faces or buildings, and clutches may contain up to 7 eggs. The female is solely responsible for incubating the eggs over a 2 week period, though the male is very actively involved in feeding both the female and chicks at the nest. The chicks leave the nest at about a month of age, with some pairs raising as many as three broods in a season!
Adults grow to a length of around 27cm with a wingspan of approximately 45cm and a weight of about 60g.