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Lord Lilford states that although the Hoopoe as a rule prefers a hole in an old ash or willow tree for nesting in, he has seen a nest on the ground under a large stone, others in holes on the sunny side of mud or brick walls, one in a fissure of limestone rock, and another in a small cavern.
Dr. Carl Bolle has observed that in the Canaries, where trees are scarce, the Hoopoe breeds in holes of the stone walls and clefts of the rocks.
During his residence in China, where this bird is common, Mr. Swinhoe was surprised to find that it often breeds in the holes of exposed Chinese coffins, whence the natives have a great aversion to them, branding them as “Coffinbirds ;” and the Russian naturalist Pallas once found a nest of the Hoopoe, containing seven young ones nearly ready to fly, in the decomposed abdominal cavity of a dead body!
The note of the Hoopoe is very remarkable, and not to be mistaken for that of any other bird with which I am acquainted. It sounds like
the syllables “ hoop-hoop,” “ hoop-hoop,” frequently repeated, and in the quality of its tone approximates to the call of the Cuckoo, but the second note is a repetition of the first instead of being, as in the case of the Cuckoo, a third below it. Old authors affirmed that this peculiar sound was produced by the bird distending its cheeks with air, and tapping its bill upon the ground, thereby causing the notes to escape as it were spasmodically. This curious statement has received some confirmation from the observations of Mr. Swinhoe.' He says : “To produce these notes, the bird draws the air into its trachea, which puffs out on either side of the neck, and the end of the bill is tapped perpendicularly against a stone or the trunk of a tree, when the breath being forced down the tubular bill produces the correct sound.” He adds, however, that he has observed a Hoopoe perched upon a hanging rope, and uttering its well-known cry without any tapping of the bill. I cannot help thinking that a bird observed in the act of calling whilst picking up food, as many species do, has given rise to the notion that the sound is produced by tapping, whereas in truth it precedes and follows the movement. The only motion that I could ever detect in a Hoopoe whilst calling was a nodding of the head, and a depression of the crest-feathers.
i Cf. “Zoologist,” 1858, and “Proc. Zool. Soc.," 1863, p. 264.
From the accounts which have been handed down to us by old'authors, and the numerous specimens which may be seen preserved in old collections, it would appear that the Hoopoe was formerly much more plentiful in England than it is at the present day. The decrease in its numbers probably arises from two causes, viz., the clearance of forest land, entailing the destruction of many old trees which were once attractive as nesting places, and the increased use of fire-arms which unfortunately results in
Mr. Benzon of Copenhagen informed my friend Mr. Dresser that a short time ago the Hoopoe was by no means rare in Norway, but now that the forests have been cleared of all the old and hollow trees it has entirely vanished from the fauna of his district.
the destruction of many of these beautiful birds, at a time when they are just about to pair and commence nidification.
The period of its migration into Europe in the spring sets in early in April. The late Commander Sperling, when stationed with his vessel in the Mediterranean, frequently met with Hoopoes at sea during their passage. In the English Channel on the 15th April, 1854, a Hoopoe after flying two or three times round a steamer entered one of the windows of the saloon and was taken, apparently exhausted with fatigue. Another, on the 21st April, alighted on a mackerel-boat between the Eddystone Lighthouse and Plymouth Breakwater, in an exhausted state, and allowed itself to be taken.
The average date of arrival in England may be said to be the third week in April, when the species is more frequently met with in the eastern and south-eastern counties, although it wanders inland to a considerable distance. It is regarded by Mr. R. Grayas a straggler to
1 “The Birds of the West of Scotland,” p. 198.
Scotland ; and Mr. Thompson remarks that in Ireland it has appeared occasionally in all quarters of the island.
As autumn approaches, these birds, or such of
begin to move southwards for the winter, and passing gradually down to the Mediterranean, are observed for some days about the groves and olive gardens near the sea before they finally cross over. In this way they return to their winter haunts about the end of August or beginning of September. Throughout Southern and South-eastern Europe, as well as in Siberia and North-eastern Africa, the Hoopoe breeds commonly; but in the northern and western parts of the last-named continent it is chiefly a winter visitant. The Siberian birds, probably, and not the European ones, migrate to India and China for the cold season, and some remain to breed in both these countries. Those which have passed the summer in Europe, as already shown, spend their winter in Africa.
1 “Nat. Hist. Ireland” (Birds), vol. i. p. 353.