Green Woodhoopoe

The arrival while one is out walking of the Green Woodhoopoe always lifts the spirits. They are beautiful birds and their chattering is so delightful. They used to be called Red billed Woodhoopoe, but the Zulu name captures their sound so well – Hlekabafazi, meaning “laughing women”. In Afrikaans they are called Gewone Kakelaar.
When one bird starts calling, it is joined by others in the group. In this communal calling, the birds often gather close to each other, sometimes facing each other and they bob and sway as they cackle.
These large birds measure about 44 cm in length, including their very long tails.
Their plumage is mostly metallic dark green, blue or black, with a purple back and tail. There are white markings on the wings and the sides of the tail. The red bill is long, thin and curved.
Males and females look alike, but immatures can be identified by their black bills.
They fly in flocks of up to eight, from one tree to another, clambering and scrambling among the branches looking for insects and calling at the same time.
They live communally, with a very clear hierarchy or pecking order within the group.
They roost in groups in cavities in trees, but this makes them vulnerable to nocturnal, arboreal predators such as genets, tree civets, African wild cats and feral domestic cats, and possibly a number of snake species.
However, what is interesting about them is that they are able to produce a foul smelling substance from their preen gland above the tail. This is a form of chemical weapon, it acts as a deterrent to put off predators. So when they are threatened, they turn around and expose the preen gland. Typically, the emission of a drop of their extremely pungent secretion accompanies this behaviour. Apparently the smell puts off at least some of their enemies.
They are what are known as co-operative breeders. There will be one breeding pair in a group and the other birds will help to feed and protect the young.
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