Who you, hoopoe?
The repeated call “oop, oop, oop” gave rise not only to its English name hoopoe but also to its scientific Latin name Upupa epos. It belongs to the bucerotiformes order of birds that also includes the hornbills.
About the size of a dove, the Eurasian migratory bird has pink-beige plumage and a slim, slightly curved bill. It has a black-tipped crest which, when folded and flat, means that the bird is relaxed and at ease. When excited or during landing, the crest rises to an arc.
While the woodpecker searches for food on vertical surfaces like tree trunks, the hoopoe forages exclusively on horizontal surfaces on the ground in the short grass, but it nests in trees or walls.
In the 2000 book “Guide to the Birds of the Philippines,” coauthor Robert S. Kennedy noted how hoopoe sightings in the country had been rare, recounting “only 1 record in December from Palawan and about 5 records from Bataan.”
But perhaps the town of Tanay, Rizal province, may now be added to the short list of places with documented hoopoe visits
On Oct. 5, around 2 p.m., it was a sunny Monday afternoon at the sprawling Epic Park, a privately owned nature reserve in Tanay that has lain largely undisturbed for over a century, when park employee Nonoy Burce spotted an unfamiliar bird about five meters away and foraging for food under a tamarind tree.
Nonoy called out to fellow employee Greg Enriquez, who quickly got his camera. The result was five snapshots and a minute-and-a half video of the park’s rare feathered guest.
Greg used a Canon Powershot SX70 HS. The still images were shot at f / 5.6, 175mm, 1/320 sec, ISO 500, with no flash; the video was taken with the camera resting on a tripod.
The hoopoe returned the next day, around 6:30 a.m. during a drizzle. It lingered closer to the property owner’s house, then flew to an aratiles tree, then to the roof, before more pictures could be taken.
The hoopoe has not been seen since but the “oop, oop, oop” call was heard again on Oct. 14. Social distancing?
Horst Kessler von Sprengeisen, a German ornithologist and longtime Philippine resident to whom this writer mentioned the hoopoe visit, remarked that “it was like seeing a polar bear on Edsa!’’
The property owners, Dr. Walter and Annabel Brown, were rewarded with the unique sighting for their respect for nature and for preserving natural habitats. The photographer was rewarded for his patience and dedication with this once-in-a-lifetime experience.