Birds of Ethiopia

There is a wide range of birds in the Ornithology Collection from all over the world. Here are some interesting specimens from Ethiopia that were collected by Jack Hill II and Jack Hill III from 1973 to 1975 and donated to the collection.


The Hoopoe (Upapa epops), pictured above, is found across Africa and Asia and is the national bird of Israel. It has a brown breast, black and white striped wings and a long, thin black beak. One of its more striking features is its crown of brown feathers tipped in black. The hoopoe eats a wide variety of food, from insects and small animals to berries and plants. The bird uses its long beak to forage and probe for food among grasses and in dirt. Eggs and brooding females give off a nasty odor to discourage predators and parasites. The Hoopoe appears in ancient Egyptian tombs and temples and ancient Minoans believed the bird to be sacred. There are also references to the Hoopoe in the Old Testament and the Quran. According to Leviticus and Exodus, the hoopoe is not kosher.


The Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus), found across Sub-Saharan Africa, is a member of the finch family. The male has a distinctive bright blue breast and bright red spots on its cheeks. Both the males and females of the species sing, and their song has been described as “wit-sit-diddley-diddley-ee-ee.” As a granivore, the cordon-bleu mainly eats small grains and other seeds. Females usually lay 4 to 5 eggs at a time.


The Pin-tailed Wydah (Vidua macroura) is a small bird that lives all over Sub-Saharan Africa. Male wydahs are black and white with long, sweeping tail feathers and bright red beaks. Females are less bright: brown and off-white feathers and no tail plumage. Females lay eggs in nests of other birds, usually finches, which makes them brood parasites. During courting, males hover to allow females to see their tail feathers in a flight display.


The Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) is the largest kingfisher in Africa. Native to southern Africa, it has a black and white spotted back and chest, brown feathers around its neck, spiky feathers on top of its head and a wide, long black beak. The kingfisher’s cry sounds like “wak-wak-wak.” As a carnivore, its diet includes crab, fish and frog.


The White-cheeked Turaco (Tauraco leucotis) is found in the northeast part of Africa. It has green feathers, black wings, and white spots on its neck and around its eyes. One turaco has been spotted numerous times around London over the past several years, and witnesses report that it seems to be thriving, despite the vast differences in climate.


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