Upupa Africana - The African Hoopoe

The African Hoopoe is widely distributed throughout South Africa. Not a particularly sociable bird, the Hoopoe is generally found either singly or in pairs.

There is some debate about whether the African Hoopoe and the Eurasian Hoopoe are 2 species or simply subspecies of Upupa epops. In the field they can be distinguished by their colouring (africana is a richer chestnut) and the lack of the white sub-terminal band on the primaries in the African Hoopoe.

Did you know? The African Hoopoe's call is a repetitive "hooo-pooo" sung 5 times or more, hence the name 'Hoopoe'.

The Hoopoe is instantly recognisable by its distinctive 'crown' or 'crest' of feathers, its rich chestnut colouring contrasted by the black and white stripes of its wings and tail. The crest is briefly raised when the bird is unsettled or startled. The Hoopoe's bill is long, dark and narrow and slightly down- or de-curved. The lower abdomen, belly and under-tail coverts are white, the eyes are black and the legs and feet are dark brown.


Length: 25 to 29 cm.
Wingspan: 44 to 48 cm.
Weight: 65 to 68 gms when fully grown.


African Hoopoes favour open and bushy areas, thornveld and riverine woodlands in dry areas.


They are widely distributed throughout South Africa and can be observed in many nature reserves, parks and gardens. Some of these reserves include the Table Mountain National Park (which stretches from Cape Town to Cape Point), the Melrose Bird Sanctuary in Johannesburg, Birds of Eden, just outside Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route, and the Makana Botanical Gardens in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.


Hoopoes dart around at ground level collecting insects, small reptiles like lizards which they find in the ground and in animal faecal matter. They disrupt and turn over fallen leaves and plant matter and probe the ground for insects and food and then use their sharp bills for locating their prey.

They will also consume small amounts of seeds and occasionally berries, but not in large amounts, preferring insects and beetles etc.


The African Hoopoe isn't a sociable bird and is generally found either singly or in pairs (occasionally small loose flocks are seen during the migration season). They are monogamous birds however, this only lasts for a single breeding season.


The Hoopoe is a cavity nester (in tree holes, either natural or made by barbets or woodpeckers) or will happily use a hollow in a pile of boulders or cavities in buildings, always chosen and protected by the male. They lay from four to seven eggs over a period of a few days (sometimes taking a days break in-between).

Once she has finished laying all her eggs, the female alone will incubate the eggs for 14 - 16 days. Once hatched, the male does the hunting for the chicks for the first week of their lives and then the female gets involved in the feeding of her young.


Incubation lasts for 14 to 16 days.

Life Expectancy

Information required.




Birds of Eden; Author observation

Wish you were here?

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

  • Property TypeGame Lodge
  • Guests66
  • Rooms/Units27
View and book

Where to see African Hoopoe in their natural habitat?

Want to see african hoopoe in their natural habitat? In South Africa, the hoopoe is widespread and can be seen in many parks and botanical gardens including...

Conservation Status
African Hoopoe
Kruger Park's Big 6 Birds
South Africa. Explore. Experience. Stay

SA-Venues.com® has been assisting travellers with their South Africa travel plans since 1999, and is the largest, independent online travel guide for South Africa available in both English and German.