Beware, Young Nest Robbers

hoopoe upua

The lovely¬†hoopoe¬†instantly becomes everybody’s favorite bird when we bump into one on our Birds and Art tours — and of course, I can never resist reminding the group of this common species’ reputation for smellitudinosity.

In nineteenth-century France, that defensive stink should have protected nesting hoopoes from prying hands, but didn’t:

I have known young egg collectors to naively reach into those extremely odoriferous chambers and to find that that strange aroma lingered long thereafter. But this too gentle lesson went unheeded, and those young miscreants returned the next spring to their spiteful destruction of the eggs and young of some of our best allies,

the insectivorous birds.

Hoopoes have little to fear from roving bands of oologists nowadays, I think, but their numbers are decreasing throughout their range. Not much you can do as a bird against habitat loss and global warming — no matter how bad you smell.