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Upupa africana (African hoopoe) 

[= Upupa epops

Hoephoep [Afrikaans]; Ubhobhoyi [Xhosa]; umZolozolo, uZiningweni [Zulu]; Kangungu/Nduranganga [Kwangali]; Popopo, Khapopo, Pupupu, 'Mamokete [South Sotho]; Kukuku [North Sotho]; Mhupupu [Shona]; Umphuphuphu [Swazi]; Pupupu [Tsonga]; MmadilÍpÍ, Pupupu [Tswana]; Hop [Dutch]; Huppe d'Afrique [French]; Wiedehopf [German]; Poupa [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Upupiformes > Family: Upupidae

Upupa africana (African hoopoe)

African hoopoe, Satara, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]

Upupa africana (African hoopoe)  Upupa africana (African hoopoe) 

African hoopoe. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

African hoopoe, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Andries Steenkamp ©]

The African hoopoe is a very widespread range, found everywhere in southern Africa except deserts, karoo and, strangely, Lesotho. It mainly lives in tall woodlands with short cut grass undergrowth, but it has also adapted well to living with humans, and can be found in many urban areas. It feeds on insects, probing the ground with its bill. It often nests in tree holes up to 8m above ground, as well as a number of man-made structures. It lays 4-7 eggs, which are incubated exclusively by the female. The chicks stay in the nest for 26-32 days before leaving the nest for the surrounding foliage. They remain dependent on their parents for at least 1 month before becoming fully independent.

For information about this species, see www.birdforum.net/opus/Upupa_africana

Distribution and habitat

It occurs almost everywhere in southern Africa except for deserts, arid karoo and Lesotho. It generally prefers open woodland with short grass undergrowth, and it has adapted well to the introduction of man-made habitats, such as parks, gardens, orchards and plantations.

Distribution of African hoopoe in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Greater honeyguide.


Feeds throughout the day, usually in low grass or bare soil. It probes the ground with its slightly open bill, trying to find insects. Once the prey is caught, it will sometimes beat the prey on the ground in order to reduce it to bite-size pieces. The following prey items have been recorded in its diet:

  • large insects
    • adults
    • larvae
    • pupae
  • termite alates


  • It mainly nests in tree holes, either natural or made by barbets or woodpeckers. It can also nest in a termite mound, stone wall, ground hole, drainage pipe, crevice in masonry, underfloor space, house ceiling or nest box. The nest is always chosen by the male, who defends it vigorously.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-February, peaking at September-November.
  • It lays 4-7 eggs, usually in successive days, although it sometimes takes a two day break between the first and second egg.
  • Incubation starts when the last egg has been laid, and is done solely by the female for 15-16 days. The female will huff and hiss if disturbed on nest.
  • The male does all the hunting for the chicks in the first 7-8 days of their lives, after which the female joins in as well. The following prey item have been recorded in the chicks diet:
  • The chicks stay in the nest for 26-32 days, after which they leave the nest for the surrounding foliage, becoming fully independent about a month later.


Not threatened, although out competed for nesting sites in urban areas by Common starling.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.