Reproductive biology

Hoopoes nest in holes in trees, walls, cliffs, banks, termite mounds, flat ground, and crevices between rocks. Little or no nest material is used, and the nest cavity is often fetid. A nest site may be used for several years.

The male selects the nest site and establishes the territory. Intruders are chased in the air and on the ground. The male courtship-feeds the female, after which activity copulation usually takes place. The monogamous pair often fly slowly round the territory, one behind the other, raising and lowering their crests.

Eggs are produced at a rate of one per day. The clutch size is four to seven in the tropics and five to nine (maximum 12) in temperate regions. The incubation period is 15-18 days, only the female incubates, and hatching is asynchronous. The nestling period is 25-32 days. Fledged young start self-feeding after six days, thereafter remaining with the parents for some weeks. Hoopoes are normally single-brooded, although two or three broods are recorded. Of 172 eggs laid in 24 nests (Europe), 74% hatched and 58% fledged.

Nestlings defend themselves by hissing, jabbing upwards with the bill, producing an evil-smelling secretion from the uropygial gland, and spraying feces. Adults have a striking defense posture, with wings and tail spread on the ground, head thrown back, and bill raised.

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