25 July 2008

Hoopoes (1)

I saw another hoopoe this morning. I was convinced the hoopoes had all flown back to Africa by now. But there's at least one still out in the Renaudière vineyard.

A month or so ago, I saw a group of three or four hoopoes several times on my morning walks with the dog. They were feeding between rows of grapevines, and Callie would flush them out. Problem was, it always happened too fast for me to take a picture.

Peterson's drawings of the hoopoe

It was the same thing this morning. Too fast, I mean. I was just walking down the gravel road through the vineyard when I noticed a bird that flew low, right across my line of sight. It must have been 10 or 12 feet off the ground. As as it flew by, the rising sun shone on it and I could see that it was definitely a hoopoe — une huppe fasciée in French.

This has been the year of the hoopoe for me. It all started on the Ile d'Oléron in May, when we spent a week down there with our bird-watching friend Cheryl. Her long-time goal — I just looked at e-mails we got from her after her 2003 visit to Saint-Aignan — was to see a hoopoe, if at all possible. She has another bird-watcher friend who asks her, she said, every time she comes back from a trip to France: "Did you see a hoopoe this time?" In 2003 and 2006, she had to answer in the negative.

The first one we ever saw was in March or April of 2004. Walt spotted an unusual-looking bird feeding on the ground out in our back yard. He thought it was a woodpecker at first. He called me to the window and we both got a good look at it. It had a big crest, an orange-ish color, and black and white stripes on its wings and body. We didn't have a camera out and didn't get a picture.

Hoopoes on the covers of the two bird books we have

I remember racing to the bird books (one English — Peterson's — and one French). I thumbed through the pages of both until I found a picture of a bird that resembled the one we had seen in the back yard. It was definitely a huppe fasciée, a hoopoe.

Then I put one of the books down and glanced at the cover. Right there, staring me in the face, was a hoopoe. I looked at the other bird book. Another hoopoe! Right on the cover. I had never noticed before.

On the Ile d'Oléron, it was Sunday morning at about 9:00 a.m. The glass carafe for the coffeemaker in the little house we had rented for the week was broken. Catastrophe! No way to make coffee on our first morning there, and Cheryl needs her coffee (Walt and I can and usually do drink tea).

So as early as we could, Cheryl and I set out in the car to go find a new glass carafe for the Moulinex coffee maker. Grocery stores are open on Sunday mornings in France, and Walt said he was sure that Intermarché carried replacement carafes for many brands of coffeemakers. There was an Intermarché five or six miles down the road from where we were staying.

We came to an intersection with a stop light. We were talking, of course, but I noticed a bird at the base of a tall hedge, right on the side of the road, on the other side of the intersection. The light turned green, and we started moving. I kept watching the bird, wondering what it was. Oh, it's just a pigeon, I said to Cheryl, as we drove on past it.

As we passed, I got a better look at it. Then I realized what I was seeing. "It's a damn' hoopoe!" I yelled out. "Oh no, really?" Cheryl cried out. She looked at me and said, "Can we turn around and go back? I didn't see it and I really want to see a hoopoe." She was upset she had missed it.

I of course turned around as soon as I could, but I was sure the bird would be long gone by the time we got back to that intersection. But it was early enough on a Sunday morning that there was hardly any traffic at all.

Click to read part 2


  1. Hoopoes are great, aren't they? You probably hear their call all the time without realising it - oo-popo, repeated over and over with a pause between each oo-popo. Only a few make it across to Britain each year, and their preferred habitat in England is vicar's lawns.

  2. OI

    That's my line.......... I thought of that.(sorry Ken - we'll take our domestic elsewhere!)

    Good to see that you have seen Hoopoes. They always come as a surprise to me - usually when I am driving. Consequently I have never managed to photo one either.


  3. We saw a similar bird last year in Lussault-sur-Loire near Amboise during a lunchtime pic-nic. Like Walt, we thought it was a woodpecker. Looking forward to read the rest of your Hoopoe story ... tomorrow! Martine

  4. Huppes, in French! Had to look it up in my dictionary.
    How frustrating not to be able to take a pic!
    Looking forward to the next episode!

  5. But the real question here is whether Cheryl got her coffee.
    Signed, Another Coffee Desperado

  6. Is the hoopoe related to the roadrunner of the American Southwest? They look similar, even to the crazy crest on the head.

  7. Hoopoe?? Wowwweeee! I've never even heard of it! How CAN you leave us hanging like that? :))


  8. The roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus, is a bird in the cuckoo family. Its crest is by no means as large as that of the hoopoe.

  9. love the hairdo. you can wear it back. you can wear it up. fabulous.

  10. Ellen, I can see the resemblance between the hoopoe and the roadrunner, even though they are not closely related according to Wikipedia. The hoopoe is in an order all by itself, being supposedly the last surviving member of that order. The flightless Giant Hoopoe that lived only on the island of Saint Helena went extinct 500 years ago.

    I just realized that hoopoe is pronounced [HOO-poo]. I'd been imagining it as [HOO-poh]. "Hoopoo" does sound more like its call.

  11. PJ, LOL! as we say nowadays. (No, not Little Old Lady.)

    Chrissou, see Hoopoes (2) for the answer to the coffee question.

    Martine, that probably was a hoopoe you saw near Lussault. There have been a lot of them around here this year.

    Susan and Simon, settle down now!

    And Judy, it really wasn't a very suspenseful story. I just enjoyed reliving it. Cheryl is on vacation in Israel right now but she will see the story soon.


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