Phoeniculus purpureus


Physical characteristics: Green woodhoopoes, considered the largest of the woodhoopoes, are primarily black in color with variable green and purple glossy overtones. They have a blue head and throat; violet on the back of the neck; white spots on their flight feathers and at the tip of its tail; a white bar across the middle of the wings; and red bill and feet, with bills being black in some populations. They have short, strong legs and sharp claws for gripping bark firmly. The long, graduated tail is used, either closed or spread, as a support.

Green woodhoopoe bills are long, slender, and slightly curved. The bill of males is longer than that of females, with a male weight about

Green woodhoopoes are social birds. They will often exchange food as part of their social behavior. (Kerry T. Givens/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

18 to 20 percent more than females. Juveniles do not contain iridescence, glossy, colors like the adults, and have short dark bills and dark feet. Most juvenile males and some females have brown or buff throats, with smaller number of tail spots than what are found on adults. Adults are 13 to 15 inches (32 to 37 centimeters) long and weigh between 2.0 and 3.5 ounces (54 and 99 grams).

Geographic range: Green woodhoopoes are one of the most widespread of all woodhoopoes. They range throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Habitat: Green woodhoopoes are found in open woodlands, savannas, palm groves, along rivers within forests, wooded gardens, and dry, mixed scrublands that contain at least a few larger trees. They are found from near sea level to altitudes well over 6,560 feet (2,000 meters). Green woodhoopoes must live in areas that contain large enough trees, except for thick rainforests, in order to find cavities for roosting and nesting. They are not found in arid zones and dense forests.

Green woodhoopoes are social birds. They will often exchange food as part of their social behavior. (Kerry T. Givens/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Green woodhoopoes eat caterpillars, beetle larvae, spiders and spider eggs, adult and larval moths, and winged and un-winged termites. They occasionally eat centipedes, millipedes, small lizards, and small fruits. They are well suited for climbing on tree trunks and branches in search for food. Most often, they forage by probing within cracks or bark of tree trunks, branches, and twigs. Males search lower down on the tree, while females tend to forage higher where smaller branches, limbs, and twigs are located. Sometimes green wood-hoopoes dig in animal dung found on the ground, catch insets in flight, or steal food from nests of other species. Prey is often pounded and rubbed against a branch before being eaten.

Behavior and reproduction: Green woodhoopoes are territorial birds. They live in social groups, often in groups of four to eight members, but occasionally in much larger groups of up to sixteen birds. They often follow one another in single file in short flights from one tree to another. Green woodhoopoes will often exchange food as part of their social behavior. They are frequently noisy birds, often defending their territory with loud cackling calls; rapid, exaggerated bowing movements; and strong movements of the tail up and down.

Breeding activities can occur in every month, but are more frequent in months that are wet. They will often nest in tree holes, either natural or old woodpecker holes, but sometimes in the ground. When nests occur in trees, the nest is usually up to 72 feet (22 meters) above the ground. When the weather is abnormally wet, usually in late summer, they will nest in buildings. The female will lay two to five eggs, and then incubate them for seventeen to eighteen days. The nestling period lasts about thirty days. Adult and juvenile helpers will assist the mating pair in feeding and other duties.

Green woodhoopoes and people: People and green woodhoopoes have little significance to each other. However, the birds are often found in gardens and parks.

Conservation status: Green woodhoopoes are not threatened. They are widespread and common throughout their range, including a number of large national parks. ■



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