It’s true. I spotted a fantastic bird in Maroni. I was driving along the river valley when it happened. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed this perfect form. I was probably doing about twenty mile per hour, the sun was shining and I glanced to the left. There, keeping pace with me, in a rising and falling flight was my first hoopoe of the season. Imagine my delight at seeing her or was it him? Hoopoes are are joyfully colourful birds found across Afro-Eurasia, particularly notable for their distinctive “crown” of feathers. That long curving beak is also a feature of the hoopoe. The orange colour hoopoe I saw on Cyprus is most likely a member of the European Hoopoe family. Cyprus is on the Southernmost part of its recognised area of distribution. A curious fact is that the Hoopoe is the national bird of Israel – did you know? No, neither did I.
A hoopoe likes to forage for food either on bare to lightly covered ground – there’s not much of that around in our valley at the moment. A winter of prolonged rains, some say the most rainfall in a hundred years, has the island covered in a coat of green. The other thing the hoopoe likes is trees in which it can explore cavities and holes for food. The diet of the hoopoe is mostly composed of insects, although small reptiles, frogs and plant matter such as seeds and berries are sometimes taken as well. It is a solitary forager which typically feeds on the ground. More rarely they will feed in the air, where their strong and rounded wings make them fast and manoeuvrable, in pursuit of numerous swarming insects. More commonly their foraging style is to stride over relatively open ground and periodically pause to probe the ground with the full length of their bill. Insect larvae, pupae and mole crickets are detected by the bill and either extracted or dug out with the strong feet. Hoopoes will also feed on insects on the surface, probe into piles of leaves, and even use the bill to lever large stones and flake off bark. Common diet items include crickets, locusts, beetles, earwigs, cicadas, ant lions, bugs and ants. Since hoopoes like to feed independently I was intrigued to see, what I took to be a breeding pair of hoopoes in the valley last summer. My glimpse of the hoopoe today was not enough to convince me that the couple from last year had returned. So I guess I will just have to keep my eyes peeled in the hope that I see two birds in flight in the valley while we are around. I’ll keep you posted. I’m going to be writing about other birds that you can spot in and around Villa Carpe Diem. It’s part of the joy of living in the countryside, identifying and watching so many visitors to Cyprus who fly in – under their own steam!