This nice little guy is a frequent visitor around our farm. Most of the time, I hear him before I see him, because his colors make him blend in with his environment so well. He is a Hoopoe, or Upupa epops. In Egypt and throughout the arab world, he is known as “Hud Hud.”
The Hoopoe is so named because, to the Western ear, his call sounds like “hoop hoop hoop.” But in Arabic there is no “p” sound, as this sound is interpreted as a “b.” So, for example, when in Egypt, you must ask for a “Bibsy, bleez!” Instead of the more famous and familiar, “Pepsi, please!” And for lunch, you might go to “Bizza Hut” on Tahrir Square in Cairo. Perhaps the “b” sound is stronger in arabic, too, and for this reason the soft consonantal sound on the end of the hud hud’s call sounds more like a “d.” (To be honest, it sounds that way to me, too) Hence the difference in interpretation of the call of the hoopoe, and of the transliteration of his name to “Hud Hud.”
The Hoopoe is classified in the Coraciiformes clade, a group that also includes kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, and woodhoopoes. There is only 1 species of Mr. Hud Hud still surviving, although there are several subspecies worldwide. You can easily recognize the Hud Hud from a distance in the air by his uniquely characteristic “fluttery” flight, which is like that of a giant butterfly, caused by the wings half closing at the end of each beat or short sequence of beats.
The Hud Hud has a characteristic set of calls, too. Prior to mating season he announces himself with a quick and nerdy sounding, “hudhudhud.” Hopping from one location to the next, hunting for bugs on the ground, announcing “hudhudhud” after every few meters of progress. But soon the late winter turns to spring, and Mr. Hud Hud’s priorities change from nerdy bug hunting to dreamy serenading his lady friends hanging out along the banks of the canal.
Hoopoe ladies and gents love the banks of the canal lining two sides of our farm. I see them sunbathing, spreading out their beautiful wings and tail feathers low against the ground and tilting their gorgeous crested heads up to the sun. They like to show off their nice colors, flapping their wings open and closed, enjoying the light fanning of dust or sand. Then they preen and clean themselves and go back to the business of hunting bugs or serenading the pretty lady hoopoes in hopes of a good catch for the mating season.
“Hooooodhoodhoodhoodhoodhoodhood!” The Hoopoe announces his presence more happily as his favorite time of year approaches. Serenading softly, not loudly, in fact quite subtly and serenely, wherever he goes. Usually 7 or more times in gentle succession, and the first “hood” is drawn out, while the rest follow like soft drumbeats. “Hooooodhoodhoodhoodhoodhoodhood!” I feel he’s a very peaceful bird, traveling serenely from here, to there, and on to the next place, with great interest in his surroundings. He never stays in one place for long, but his song remains in my ears. I am always hoping to catch the beautiful sound of it, and another nice glimpse of him, again!
Hear a recording of the call of the Hud Hud/Hoopoe Bird found Here: