A distinctive bird we usually only seen high up in trees, making a raucous noise is the Green Woodhoopoe, formerly known as he Red-billed Woodhoopoe or Kakelaar in Afrikaans.

These birds are mostly arboreal where they live on grubs, insects, reptiles and even the young of other birds. They have strongly curved claws on long toes enabling them to cling to the bark of trees while their long decurved red bills probe cracks and holes in the bark to find their food. Green Woodhoopoes are gregarious in groups up to about 15 members [usually about 6] as they fly in loose formation from tree to tree making a noisy chattering racket when they come into land. This loud, raucous chattering gives rise to their Xhosa name of iNhlekabafazi meaning Laughing or cackling lady.

Roberts tells us there is only one breeding pair in a group. They can breed at any time of the year but mainly September to November in South Africa. “Schiel” writing in East London Despatch relates how a Green Woodhoopoe nesting in his garden was attended by two males, both of whom brought goodies’ for her to eat. He considered this an excellent example of neighbourly goodwill since if the breeding male came to some harm, the second male would keep her fed and cared for. They may raise two broods in a season. The young of the first brood help to feed the young of the second family.

Green Woodhoopoes are easily identified with their bright red decurved bills and red legs. This clearly distinguishes the m from the Scimitar billed wood hoopoe, which is smaller and less likely to be seen in the Clarens area. The former are medium sized birds, black with a distinctive green iridescence and exhibiting white flecks on their sides and on long tail feathers White feathers are prominent in flight. Incidentally, Woodhoopoes are not classed in the same Family as the well-liked African Hoopoe but they are of the same Order.

Author: Craig Walters

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