Green Wood-Hoopoe

Phoeniculus purpureus

The Green Wood-Hoopoe, also known as the Red-billed Wood-Hoopoe, is a bird renowned in these parts for their “crazy cackling” call, often given in a choir by the whole group. They occur widely in South Africa, being absent only from most of the Northern and Western Cape Provinces, and are also widely distributed over much of sub-Saharan Africa with the exception of the equatorial forestsThe IUCN lists the Green Wood-Hoopoe as being of least concern, whilst noting that the loss of prime habitat is causing a decline in certain populations. Some introduced starlings compete with the Green Wood-Hoopoe for nests, especially in urban settings where these exotics flourish.

Green Wood-Hoopoes are common in suburban gardens and parks, but their natural habitat preference ranges from open savannas to dense woodlands and riverine forests. Green Wood-Hoopoes mostly forage in the trees and occasionally on the ground or termite mounds, poking behind loose bark and inside crevices for insects and small reptiles or amphibians and, irregularly, snacking on nectar, seeds and fruits.

Moving around in territorial family groups of up to 14 consisting of a dominant pair and several helpers, Green Wood-Hoopoes breed in holes in trees (usually abandoned by other birds and never created by themselves) at any time of year, with the dominant female incubating a clutch of 2 to 5 eggs over a 3 week period. Both she and the chicks are provided food by the rest of the group, who is also very protective of the nest and will fearlessly attack any intruders. The hatchlings leave the nest when they’re about a month old but are cared for with great dedication by the other group members until they’re about four or five months old. Adult Green Wood-Hoopoes measure around 35cm in length and weigh about 80g.

22 thoughts on “Green Wood-Hoopoe

  1. naturebackin

    You have some very fine photos here of these difficult to photograph birds. As you and Anne note, they are perpetually busy in addition to being incredibly wary.
    Sadly, green wood-hoepoes don’t visit our garden nearly as frequently as they used to.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      That’s disheartening news, Carol. It would seem thriving populations of exotic starlings in our towns and cities are having a marked impact on the nesting success of the wood-hoopoes. And I suspect so too is diminishing numbers of their invertebrate food supply.

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      1. naturebackin

        Yes it is disheartening. One thing at least – we do not see exotic starlings around here. And Indian mynas occur only in the more built-up areas and not in the immediate vicinity. But appropriate trees for foraging (and nesting?) and the food supply could well be part of the problem.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      They do make sure they get all the attention when they’re in the neighbourhood, Takami.

      We’re blessed with the most glorious spring weather at the moment her in the northern parts of South Africa, Takami, and enjoying it to the max with open doors and windows, flooding our home with fresh air. I am sure the autumn season will soon swathe Japan in beautiful arrays of colour?

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      1. T Ibara Photo

        Hello again Dries,
        I am so happy to hear you are blessed with glorious Spring weather! Yes, Autumn is on its way here on this side of the globe. However, in Japan, we must survive the Typhoon season before admiring autumn in her full glory. It will be worth it!!

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          Indeed I forgot about the huff in which summer seems to depart from your corner of the globe every year, Takami. I suppose all these elements worked together and continue to do so, despite human pressures, to make Japan the beautiful country it is.

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  2. perdebytjie

    Hier is gedurig kakelaars wat hier in ons tuin kom kuier. Dis sulke pragtige voëls. Ek let op dat hulle eers sowat van vier jaar gelede af hier begin inkom het. Dankie vir die goeie artikel en pragfoto’s, Dries.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Dankie vir die gawe kommentaar, Dina.
      Ek het in Germiston groot geword, en my ouers het n groot ou swartwattel in die tuin gehad wat gedurigdeur deur kakelaars besoek is – ek praat nou van 30 jaar gelede al. Dit is daarom interessant vir my om te hoor dat hul so onlangs eers in Benoni opgemerk word. Ek wonder of dit iets te make kan he met die mynahs (Indiese spreeus)?

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      1. perdebytjie

        Hier was op ‘n stadium vreeslik baie Mynahs, maar dis asof dit meer gebalanseerd raak en ek sien hier is minder. Deesdae is hier ontsettend baie kwêvoëls, wat ook nooit hier was nie.Ek sien selfs bleekvlerkspreeus en glansspreeus. Ek dink dis hoe die omgewing verander. Dit bly interessant.

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          Enige nuwe voels wat mens in jou eie tuin teekom maak my opgewonde! Hier in Garsfontein het ek en Joubert so 2 weke gelede die baie skaars Kleinjagarend sien posduiwe jag terwyl ons in die buurt gaan stap het! Op n ander keer n Geelblestinkertjie. En net gister n groep van 9 geelbekbosduiwe in die plaaslike parkie! Hoe wens ek dit was veilig genoeg om met n kamera in die hande hier deur die strate te wandel.

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          1. perdebytjie

            Dis besonders… hier is ook ‘n paar geelbek bosduiwe en ek het ‘n kaalwangvalk ook gesien in ons palmboom.Voëlskyk is heerlik. Dankie dat jy dit vir my ook interessant maak met jou goeie inligting, Dries.

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  3. Anne

    We are fortunate enough to have several Green Wood-Hoopoes flitting through our garden several times a year – now especially – to explore the trees, the aloes and insects. They are not easy subjects to photograph, so I enjoy the ones you have in your gallery. Here, they seem to move about so quickly and are often wither too high or too fast for me. These birds bring me a feeling of great joy when they arrive.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      They remind me of a group of unruly barflies hopping from one pub to the next and growing ever louder!
      Thanks for commenting so kindly on the photo’s, Anne. Despite being rather commonly seen birds they are very camera shy, even in suburbia and in the rest camps in our game reserves.

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