hoopoe – d’you know?


Picture the scene: old comb-over Robert Robinson, chairing the programme Call My Bluff, invites dear old dickey-bowed Frank Muir to identify the correct definition of the word ‘Hoopoe’. Is it, Frank, an old English word describing a rather uncomfortable disease afflicting the skin between the toes, or a word for an obscure tribe of native Americans found in the Dakotas who were sworn enemies of the Pawnee, or a type of hooch brewed by backwoodsmen in the tropical forests of N Australia which is so powerful it can cause teeth to drop out and for the Aussie male to be rendered incapable of any cultural appreciation whatsoever. Yes Frank, it is popular throughout Australia.

Actually it’s none of these. In fact it’s the name of a bird, a pair of which have taken up residence in our garden. Weird name eh but it’s a quite beautiful thing with a long curved beak, this wonderful crest, a pink/fan-coloured body and these zebra-like markings on its wings. Take a look and try and convince me this isn’t a handsome bird:-

I know we seem to have segued from Call My Bluff into Life on Earth but these two birds have really captured my imagination. They play around the car which is parked up right outside the house, capturing bugs and things which seem to be attracted to the warmth of the metallic bodywork. Apparently (and you’ll have to imagine me talking breathlessly like David Attenborough) these charming creatures are visitors from Africa. Just occasionally they’ll overshoot continental Europe and land, exhausted, in S England to the delight of the twitcher community. But here in Italy they are plentiful at this time of year. Interestingly, they tend to stop off en route from Africa for some R&R in Israel. It’s only a short stop but it has been long enough to endear themselves to the Israeli population who have recently, and rather ironically, made this pretty visitor their national bird.

Hey, that’s not bad is it? Move over David, naturalist paulie is in town.

np

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