We get our fair share of migratory birds that overshoot their destination and end up in Bute, and one of them is a 'Hoopoe', so called for its call which is a low, far carrying, mellow 'poo-poo-poo'.
They winter in Africa, and on returning to Europe in the spring some of them decide to have a change from the norm and go further afield, with Bute having several sightings over the years, and that is the ones that have been seen, there may have been more of them and indeed other species that have stopped here for a feed and a rest before moving on and remain unseen, so if we spot any, they are recorded. And the record sent to those that are interested in passing migrants, and even better, if you can get a photo of them. It does not have to be a close up one, just one that is good enough for identification. The last sighting of one was at Eskechraggan Farm. It was spotted feeding around the farm buildings, but soon took off when a car approached never to be seen again, possibly to another area giving someone else a chance to have a look at it.
The hoopoe is a very striking bird, 27-29cms (10-11in) with large rounded wings, which give them an erratic bounding flight like a giant butterfly, and in flight they look strikingly black and white, but on the ground they can be difficult to see depending on what like the terrain is that they are feeding at. Their colour is- crown throat and breast, a sandy fawn. Upper parts tail and rump, black with white bars. Belly white, bill black long and decurved. They also have a lovely crest that is sandy fawn as well, which is tipped with black and the will raise this crest when alarmed. They will raise it at times when another hoopoe appears, or, I have seen them raise it even when a blackbird ventures too near one. With their bill being long it is a sign that they feed off and under the ground, with their choice of food being large insects and their pupae, and sometimes using this bill to extract them from the ground.
Their size and colour remind me of a 'Jay', but there the resemblance ends as the Hoopoe is on its own, there is no other bird like it so in the springtime there is a very very slight chance that you may see one as they head for their summer pastures, or in the autumn as they head back home.
First Published in the Buteman. 14-10-2005.