Hoopoe - the “Bird of the 2014 Year” in Armenia!

A public survey campaign which the Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB) has organized to name a bird symbolizing 2014 in Armenia is over. The candidate bird species which vied for this title were Cinereous Vulture, Hoopoe, Chaffinch, Northern Lapwing, Common Kestrel, Common Kingfisher, Raven, Eurasian Scops-Owl, Blackbird and Red-crested Pochard.

Public survey began in the middle of November and was available online via both ASPB’s webpage where participants voted for ‘their’ candidate and by polling on ASPB’s Facebook page. Because of the lack of internet availability in some regions voting sheets were also made available to the public.

A total of 1592 people from both Yerevan and different provinces (marzes) of Armenia voted in the competition. In an online voting the competition was particularly strong between the Hoopoe and the Common Kingfisher, while summary of the results of paper-based voting suggested that the fight has been strong between the Hoopoe, Chaffinch and Common Kestrel. As a result, the bird which scored the highest number of votes – 313 and named as «the Bird of 2014 Year» in Armenia is Hoopoe.

Perhaps there is hardly anyone who has not seen Hoopoe, the bird not distinctly keeping aloof from human beings. The bird's habits are so unique and make it impossible to confuse it with any other bird. The Hoopoe’s call is its «signature tune», a far-carrying, soft «oop-oop-oop» which has given the bird its name in the world’s most languages.

Hoopoe is almost the size of a Dove with brightly colored plumage patterns, a long, narrow bill and a crest which it usually raises into a fan-shape when excited. It is a medium sized bird weighing 68-72 g with a 42–49 cm wingspan. The bill is long, narrow and curved slightly downwards. It has a distinctive 'crown' of feathers on its head. The plumage is mainly pinkish-brown with black- and white-striped wings.

The Hoopoe is widespread across southern and central range countries of Europe and Asia. Baseline studies to provide an accurate population size of this species in Armenia have not been undertaken yet, however regular ornithological observations suggest that the Hoopoe’s population numbers are relatively stable in Armenia. Hoopoes are diurnal birds, their foraging activity begins at dawn and lasts late into evening hours. During the day, the bird feeds on different types of insects and their larvae which are typically taken on open ground.

Hoopoe is wary bird but not shy. It spends most of its foraging time on the ground by walking with ease (or even running). When facing an imminent danger Hoopoes flatten themselves against the ground by spreading out their wings and tail onto the ground, tilting their head up and raising the bill. The Hoopoe has a characteristic undulating flight flapping its wings like a butterfly, yet it can maneuver around easily and may hardly be captured by predators in the air.

The birds inhabit open ground with sparsely vegetated trees or shrubs on which to forage such as grasslands or pasturelands. These requirements can be found in a variety of ecosystems and as a consequence may include a wide range of habitats such as gardens and parks, orchards, areas close to human habitation, glades inside forests.  Nests are built in the cavities of trees, walls or stones. The uropygial gland of the incubating and brooding female and the glands of nestlings as well produce very foul-smelling secretions and sprayings of feces to fend off attacks in the nest. These secretions are produced in order to defend themselves from enemies, when the latter try to check if the tree hole is occupied by Hoopoe. Consequently, Hoopoe's nest is always disgustingly smelly and is thought to help deter predators. Hoopoes return to Armenia in March-April each year. Upon arrival adult males begin their search for a nesting ground and tend to be very active, using a song to attract his female partner in a series of loud or soft notes. Suitable nests may be reused for several years. As a rule, in case of other pairs trying to establish a neighborhood, male will readily fight with intruders to defend its territory. This is why the territory is usually populated with a single mating couple.

The “Bird of the Year” campaign aims to raise public awareness about Armenia’s birds and the need to conserve their habitats. In 2014 the program will hold various educational events with a purpose to introduce the Hoopoe, interesting events with participation of students, schoolchildren and local communities, contests. During this campaign promotional products (posters, calendars, booklets, stickers) will be made available to the public to increase their specific knowledge about this unique bird species.

Interesting facts about Hoopoe:

  • Hoopoe typically produces soft notes which in spring and summer are repeated up to 30 times per minute
  • Hoopoe is characterized by undulating flight. Movement of its wings resembles the movement of the wings of a butterfly
  • Feeds on larvae with the preferred size around 10 cm in length, as well as many other species which are considered to be damaging forest and farming pests.
  • Female is responsible for the nest and for the eggs until the hatching. Male feeds the female during this period
  • Hoopoe has very muscular bill which can be opened while stuck in the ground.
  • Hoopoes were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt, so they were "depicted on the walls of tombs and temples". They appeared also in the Bible and the Quran
  • Hoopoe is named after onomatopoeic sound produced by the bird «oop-oop-oop» in many languages.
  • Average lifespan of hoopoe in the wild is 10 years

Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds is glad to announce Hoopoe a «Bird of 2014 Year» in Armenia.


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