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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hoopoe- now a rare bird

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The bird Hoopoe fascinated me strongly during my childhood. I still remain in search of this bird whenever I chance to pass through open areas or wood -lands, but I often feel myself too unfortunate to visit the bird.”Where have all those Hoopoes gone?”- remains a persistent question in my mind till the time I get seriously confronted by a new situation. You might have seen this bird at least once, I guess but you may not be locating the image of the bird saved in some file of your mind, and you need some images to correlate the name with the bird. Well, let me introduce this interestingly beautiful bird so that you may locate it in the wild. But, one thing that I must tell you here is – the bird is disappearing fast due to some reasons. What may be the reasons; you guess for yourself or wait till I myself tell you the fact later on in this story.

Hoopoe is pronounced as hōō´pōō, –pō in English. In my childhood, I remember, local people used to call it “naunia” in Bhojpuri which meant “wife of the barber”. Why did people call it so, I don’t know but the name was quite interesting to us in our childhood. In English this bird is called as Upupa epops.

The hoopoe is a beautiful bird. I warrant you cannot forget if you happen to see it even once. Thus you can say that it is “once seen never forgotten” bird. It is a now a “very rare” bird in India and I request you to try to search for it whenever you pass through open land or a forest area. It is common in plains as migratory visitor to search and eat insects though it commonly prefers living in open forests.

The hoopoe is 27-29 centimeters (11 inches) in length. It has pinky-brown plumage on the head and body, but the large oval wings are boldly striped in black and white. The broad, square tail is black with a white bar across it. The bill is long, pointed and curved. However, its most distinctive feature is the crest on its head which, at rest, forms a hammer shape extending behind the head, but when raised forms a huge fan of pinky-brown feathers tipped with black. The fan can be raised at any time of excitement or alarm and not just as part of a mating display. The hoopoe’s flight is lazy and jerky, with the wings closed between beats. Birds will perch on walls and branches of trees. The call is a low, but carrying, “hoo-hoo-hoo”, which accounts for the hoopoe’s name.

Hoopoes like to settle in open countryside such as meadows near ponds and lakes, and also light, deciduous woodland. The nest of this bird is usually built in a tree hollow, sometimes as high as six meters above the ground, but hoopoes will also nest on the ground among rocks. A clutch of six or seven eggs are laid in May or June. The female starts to incubate as soon as the first egg is laid, which means that the chicks hatch in sequence, each egg taking up to 20 days for incubation.

Hoopoe has developed an unusual feeding habit. During the 25 or so days of feeding at the nest by the parents, the nestlings wait in turn to be fed. Once they have been given their food, each chick moves to the back of the queue, leaving the way clear for the next in line. In this way, it is not just the biggest chicks that get all the food he food in question consists of insects and larvae, which it gathers by using its long bill to probe into the soil or animal droppings. It will also take spiders and other small creatures from the surface.

Now what may be the reasons behind fast disappearance of this bird from our state? Well, you know that application of agrochemicals in agriculture has gone to large scale in the country.Farmers  adopt latest farming techniques and apply advanced synthetic chemicals including pesticides and hormones. Since hoopoes are insect eating birds, they most often happen to eat poisoned insects. The poisons get biologically magnified in their bodies leading to production of thin shelled eggs that remain unable to produce chickens. Many birds die off pharyngitis as they remain bound to consume   pesticide- contaminated water. Use of bio-pesticides in farms can be a sound alternative to the use of synthetic pesticides.

Key Words:  Hoopoe, pinky-brown plumage,feeding habit, bio-pesticides

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