Rare mohican feathered hoopoe bird spotted in British garden

Bird may have flown north instead of south in attempt to return to Africa from southern Europe

Harry Cockburn
Tuesday 11 September 2018 15:45 BST
The mohican feathered hoopoe bird during its visit to suburban Swindon
The mohican feathered hoopoe bird during its visit to suburban Swindon (Tanya Hill/SWNS)

A rare and vibrantly-coloured tropical bird has been spotted far from its native habitat, strutting around a back garden in Swindon.

The mohican feathered hoopoe, which has distinctive zebra-striped wings and a bright orange headcrest, does not breed in the UK and is usually found across Africa and southern Europe.

The bird was spotted by Lee Bennett who pointed it out to his wife Tanya Hill. They said it was rooting out insects from their lawn.

The following day the bird came back.

Ms Hill said: “The hoopoe's long beak was going into the ground - we have a lot of ants in the garden so we think it was feeding on them.

“It was very placid, sitting on the grass and on the stone path, and appeared to be enjoying the day.”

The mother of two said the family had nicknamed the bird “Hoopy”.

“We get a lot of magpies and pigeons but none came while the hoopoe was around.

“After taking a picture we searched online for an hour and were amazed to find out it is quite rare.

“The bird first arrived at Friday tea time and flew off as soon as someone went outside - but then came back on Saturday.”

Sightings of the bird are thought to be relatively common in the UK, with up to 100 instances a year, as detailed on the @hoopoesUK Twitter page.

However, they are still rare enough to pique the interest of keen ornithologists. The family told The Swindon Advertiser that after an alert went out to keen birdwatchers, several arrived in the West Swindon area hoping to spot the hoopoe.

“If you looked out the back windows there was the bird,” Ms Hill said. “If you looked out of the front windows there were birdwatchers.”

Pete Brash, an ecologist at Swindon-based charity the National Trust, told the paper the bird could be a young animal that left southern Europe for Africa, but flew hundreds of miles in the wrong direction.

He said: “Hoopoes don’t breed in Britain but do get seen in spring and autumn migration. Spring birds have usually overshot their normal continental breeding grounds. An autumn bird is mostly likely a youngster that’s headed out in the wrong direction.”

Additional reporting by SWNS

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