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Hoopoe invasion of Ireland’s south coast

Headlands and coastlines in Kerry, Cork, Waterford and Wexford have been invaded by a rather colourful continental interloper this spring.

Hoopoe invasion of Ireland -- photo by Andrew Malcolm
A hoopoe photographed in a Co. Waterford garden, April 2015, Photo © Andrew Malcolm

The striking hoopoe (Upupa epops) is a rare visitor to these shores, with very small numbers (less than 10 birds in total most years) reported in Ireland during spring and autumn as migrating birds stray off course and end up making landfall on the Irish coast. This spring has yielded a hoopoe bonanza for birders, with birds overshooting their intended destinations on the continent and turning up in numbers on the Irish coast in numbers, with at least 45 birds reported so far, and more being spotted every day.

According to Birdwatch Ireland, the last time so many birds were recorded in a single year was back in 1965, when a total of 65 birds was recorded — but with more hoopoe records being reported every day it’s quite possible this year could be a record breaker.

Birdwatch Ireland is asking that members of the public report all hoopoe sightings to them via [email protected] or by calling their Kilcoole headquarters on 01 2819878.

(NTK) Have you seen a Hoopoe?An influx of this fantastic species is occurring in Ireland right now with at least 45…

Posted by BirdWatch Ireland on Monday, 13 April 2015

Hoopoe, Galley Head, West Cork
A hoopoe on Galley Head in West Cork, April 2015

With high numbers of birds turning up, and the fact that some are being seen in groups of twos and threes, some are speculating that a few might pair up and decide to stay in Ireland to breed. However, with no historical confirmed records of breeding for Ireland, and only one suspected case in 1934 the chances would appear to be slim. With enough birds in the country though, and given favourable conditions and the availability of suitable nesting sites, you never know.

Hoopes tend to favour short cropped grassy areas with nearby cover where they can forage for their insect prey. Roadside verges, lawns, grassy lanes and golf courses are all potentially good hoopoe habitat. So keep your eyes peeled if you’re along the south coast… and if you are lucky enough to see a hoopoe please report it to Birdwatch Ireland using the details given above.

Photo credit: Hoopoe, Co. Waterford © all rights reserved, Andrew Malcolm, West Waterford Wildlife Photography, used with permission


  • Jackie Donovan

    We have had a hoopoe in our Garden this morning, in Wexford, a beautiful bird.

  • Billy Brennan

    There is a Hoopoe feeding in my garden in Sth Wexford. 16th April 2019. Has been raining quite a lot and the soil is soft. I’ve never seen one before.

  • Thank you so much for the comment. I shouldn’t have been so pseduo-authoritative on their habitat!

    On a species pretty much at the other end of the rarity spectrum (and the only connection I can justify here is that it is a garden bird!) I have noticed no magpies at all in my garden in Clonmel (I posted a little on this here – I suppose it is most likely the proximity of a rookery a few hundred metres away, or is there some population anomaly in Clonmel?

    • Entertainingly enough a few minutes after posting this I went to the kitchen window to see a group of rooks, jackdaws and …. a magpie! All on its ownsome but the first one I can recall seeing here.

  • Many may have seen this already but this is quite an amazing video of a Hoopoe quite far from any coast! – unless the Barrow counts!

    • Avatar photo

      Absolutely Seamus — and thanks for sharing this. There’s nothing restricting hoopoes to our coastline — they’re not coastal birds within their natural range. It’s just that most are seen on the coast or in coastal areas here in Ireland because migrating birds tend to concentrate at locations where they first make landfall. As they move inland they inevitably disperse, which makes them harder to find.

      Hoopoes end up here because they overshoot their breeding destinations on mainland Europe, and most probably make their way back there once they realise their mistake.

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