Hoopoe
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Source: Museum Meermanno - MMW, 10 B 25 facsimile Copyright 2004 Museum Meermanno Manuscript description Museum Meermanno, MMW, 10 B 25, Folio 32r


 

Hoopoe

Latin name: Hupupa

Other names: Epopus, Hupe, Hupelot, Huppe, Upupa

The young care for their elderly parents

 

 
General Attributes

When the hoopoe get old and their eyes grow dim, their children come to care for them. The children pull out the old feathers and lick the mist off their parents' eyes, rejuvinating the old birds. The young say they do this to repay their parents for caring for them. (Some writers ascribe these characteristics to the stork instead.)

The hoopoe is said to be a filthy bird that collects human dung and builds its nest with it, and eats bad-smelling excrement. It also likes to live around tombs. It is further said that if the blood of the hoopoe is rubbed on a sleeping man, devils will try to strangle him.


Allegory/Moral

Children should follow the example of the hoopoe and care for their parents when they are old, as their parents cared for them.


Sources (chronological order)

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 44): The hoopoe changes its appearance at different times of the year. It is a foul-feeding bird. It has a flexible crest which it can draw together and raise up along the whole length of its head.

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 7:66): The hoopoe (upupa) inspects and feeds on human excrement; its is a disgusting bird, always staying near tombs and excrement. On its head it has a helmet of upstanding crests.


Illustration

The illustrations of the hoopoe usually show a crested bird, often with young birds grooming it. Occasionally the crest is omitted.


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