Israel’s national bird finds home in a nesting box in Coimbatore

A Common Hoopoe using a nest box placed in a house in the suburbs of Coimbatore.   | Photo Credit: Wilson Thomas

A. Seyed Rabiya and her family at Kovaipudur in the suburbs of Coimbatore have been waking up to a sharp yet distinct call of a bird for a couple of months. Little did she and her family knew that it was the tweet of Common Hoopoe (Upupa epops), the national bird of Israel which carries an onomatopoeic name for its long “oop oop oop” call.

According to Ms. Rabiya, a pair of hoopoe, which she believed as woodpecker seeing their long beak and crest, occupied one of the nest boxes the family had kept for house sparrows around six months ago.

“The nest box now used by hoopoes was earlier used by house sparrows. A pair of hoopoe chased the sparrows and occupied it. The pair left about two months later when two chicks fledged. The birds were not seen for about two months. Then came the pair which is currently using the same nest box,” says Ms. Rabiya.

After reoccupying the nest box, the pair was in harmony with many house sparrows that use other nest boxes kept in the premises of the house, which is far away from noises and a few kilometres away from the forests of Madukarai forest range.

While one of the birds, believed to be the female, remains inside the box with putting out its slender-curvy-long bill through the hole, the other bird is seen foraging through the premises of the house for food, often fanning its crest and tilting head, she says.

Hoopoe, which finds references in Egyptian mythology and sacred texts like the Quran and the Bible, is a secondary cavity nester as it uses natural cavities or cavities excavated or abandoned by other species.

According to Rajah Jayapal, senior principal scientist at Coimbatore-based Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, though hoopoe was found throughout India, the bird using a nest box was not commonly reported.

“The bird usually nests in cavities in trees, walls and spaces in places like garages. Its nest is known for strong pungent smell that keeps intruders away. The odour is generated as the droppings of chicks are not removed by parent birds unlike other birds that remove the faecal sacs of chicks, a mucous membrane that covers the feces of some nestling birds,” he says.

S. Balachandran, deputy director, Bombay Natural History Society, said hoopoe has high success rate in breeding as the pungent smell keep predators away. As he has observed seven eggs in a hoopoe nest, he adds that the bird is also known for reusing the same nest.

Wildlife photographer T.R.A. Arunthavaselvan, who has been in the field for five decades and clicked hoopoe in tree cavity, recalls that he has not seen the bird using a man-made nest.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 4:55:59 AM |

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