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The Upupidæ or Hoopoe Family

The unique hoopoe (Upupa epops) next demands our attention. This is a bird about the size of a myna. The wings and tail are boldly marked with alternate bands of black and white. The remainder of the plumage is of a fawn colour. The bill is long and slender, like that of a snipe, but slightly curved. The crest is the feature that distinguishes the hoopoe from all other birds. This opens and closes like a lady's fan. Normally it remains closed, but when the bird is startled, and at the moment when the hoopoe alights on the ground, the crest opens to form a magnificent corona. Hoopoes seek their food on grass-covered land, digging insects out of the earth with their long, pick-like bills. They are very partial to a dust-bath. During the breeding season--that is to say, in April and May in the Himalayas--hoopoes continually utter in low tones uk-uk-uk. The call is not unlike that of the coppersmith, but less metallic and much more subdued. The flight of the hoopoe is undulating or jerky, like that of a butterfly. Young hoopoes are reared up in a hole in a building, or in a bank. The nest is incredibly malodoriferous.