The African Hoopoe is a comical, yet delightful sight on our lawns with his colourful rufous head and neck, black and white wing feathers, pointed crest and long decurved beak with which he probes for insects and grubs, bobbing his head up and down in the process. Usually, he spreads his crest, fan like, just after he lands or if he is alarmed.

Credo Mutwa, the well-known sangoma describes ngomfi in Wildlife Campus African Folklore Course as’ a ridiculous looking little fellow who looks as if he is wearing a Native American headdress’. Ngomfi [popope in Sesotho] is a friendly chap that we enjoy having around. Credo Mutwa tells us that his people believe ngomfiis a symbol of a loyal friend. If you hear him calling ‘hoop-hoop,hoop-hoop, hoop-hoop’ you can expect an important visitor bringing prosperity to the family. His wing and tail feathers are black and white representing night and day, darkness and light, pleasure and pain. His general colouring reminds us of the colour of beer and so ngomfi is associated with celebration, drinking and eating. No wonder this colourful and amusing little chap is regarded as the ‘harbinger of friends. Before ngomfi gets too swollen headed with all these accolades, be warned: if he decides to nest in your roof he will cause an awful and very smelly mess so ask him please to enjoy your lawn but not your home!

Author: Craig Walters

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