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(Upupa epops.) AMONGST the large number of migratory 11 birds which resort to the British Islands in spring for the purpose of nidification, are a few which come to us accidentally, as it were, or as stragglers from the main body of immigrants which, crossing the Mediterranean from Africa, becomes dispersed over the greater part of Europe. The Hoopoe is one of these. Not a summer elapses without the appearance, and, I regret to say, the destruction, of several of these beautiful birds being chronicled in some one or other of the many periodicals devoted to Natural History. If the thoughtless persons, whose first impulse on seeing an uncommon bird, is to procure a gun and shoot it, would only take as much pains to afford it protection for a time, observe its habits, describe its mode of nesting and manner of feeding its young, they would do a much greater service to ornithology by recording the result of their observations, than by publishing the details of a wanton destruction.
That the Hoopoe will breed in this country, if unmolested, is evidenced by the recorded instances in which it has done so where sufficient protection has been afforded it during the nesting season. Montagu states, in his “ Ornithological Dictionary,” that a pair of Hoopoes began a nest in Hampshire, and Dr. Latham has described a young Hoopoe which was brought to him in the month of June. A pair frequented Gilbert White's garden at Selborne ; and another pair nested for several years in the grounds of Pennsylvania Castle, Portland. Mr. Jesse states that some years ago a pair of Hoopoes built their nest and hatched their young in a tree close to the house at Park End, near Chichester; and according to the observations of Mr. Turner, of Sherborne, Dorsetshire, the nest has been taken, on three or four occasions, by the schoolboys from pollard willows on the banks of the river Lenthay. The birds were known to the boys as “Hoops."
In the same county, on the authority of the Rev. O. P. Cambridge, a pair of Hoopoes are reported to have bred at Warmwell. The Rev. A. C. Smith, of Calne, Wilts, says that a nest, containing young birds, was taken many years ago in his neighbourhood; and another nest, according to Mr. A. E. Knox, was found at Southwick, near Shoreham. Canon Tristram states that the Hoopoe has bred at least on one occasion, in Northamptonshire.
1 Cf. Garland,“Naturalist,” 1852, p. 82. 2 “Gleanings in Natural History."
Mr. Howard Saunders informs me that many years ago a pair of Hoopoes took possession of a hole in a yew tree in the shrubbery of a garden at Leatherhead, and reared their young in safety. He afterwards saw both old and young birds strutting about on the lawn. I have seldom met with this bird in England, and then only on the coast in September, when the beauty of its plumage had become faded, and the feathers ragged, and it was about to emigrate southwards for the winter. But on the continent, and more particularly in France, I have had many opportunities of observing it, and noting its actions and habits. In its movements on the ground it struck me as resembling the Rook more than any other bird I could think of at the time; the same stately tread and gentle nodding of the head, every now and then stopping to pick up something. It does not carry the crest erect, but inclining backwards, and is less sprightly in its movements generally than I had previously supposed. On the wing it at first sight reminds one of a Jay, the principal colours being the same, viz., black, white, and pale cinnamon brown ; but the distribution of colour is different, and the flight is not so rapid, and more undulating. The wings are large for the size of the bird, and the firstquill feather being much shorter than the second, the wing has a rounded appearance which makes the flight seem heavier.
It is a shy bird, taking wing on the least alarm, except when surprised by a hawk or other large bird, when, according to the observations of the German naturalists, Naumann and Bechstein, it resorts to a very singular expedient to protect itself. It squats upon the ground, spreads out its tail and wings to their fullest extent, bringing the primaries round so as almost to meet in front, and throws back its head and bill, which it holds up perpendicularly." So long as danger threatens, it remains in this
1 For a notice of this singular habit I am indebted to my friend Mr. H. E. Dresser, who has translated Naumann's observations on the subject in his beautiful work on the “ Birds of Europe."