Eurasian hoopoe spotted in Polish mountains for first time in 50 years

The Eurasian hoopoe was spotted in the village of Jurgów, 15 km from the mountain resort town of Zakopane by local resident Kinga Mateusiak. Kinga Mateusiak

An Eurasian hoopoe has been sighted in southern Poland, just three 3km from the peaks of the Tatra Mountains, for the first time in decades.

The Eurasian hoopoe (“dudek” in Polish) was spotted in the village of Jurgów, 15 km from the mountain resort town of Zakopane, which usually draws crowds of tourists in both summer and winter.

In Poland, the birds have not been sighted in places more than 600 m above sea level in the past 50 years. Kinga Mateusiak

A medium-sized bird, the Eurasian hoopoe is 25-32 cm long, with a pinkish-brown body, black and white wings and a bill that curves downwards.

It is widespread in Europe, as well as in Asia, North Africa and northern Sub-Saharan Africa.

While Eurasian hoopoes do live in the wild in Poland, they are not usually seen at this altitude.Kinga Mateusiak

A pair of Eurasian hoopoe were photographed in Jurgów after local Kinga Mateusiak noticed them by her house over the Easter weekend.

She said: “I was shocked because I had never seen these kinds of birds before. They had such a strange crest on their heads, and wings and tail in black and white stripes like ... a zebra. In addition, a long, curved beak like a woodpecker.”

Some of the Górale – the highland-dwellers of the Polish mountains – have taken the sighting as a good sign.Grzegorz Momot/PAP

“At first I thought they were some exotic birds that had escaped from someone's home,” she added.

While Eurasian hoopoes do live in the wild in Poland, they are not usually seen at this altitude.

Jurgów lies just three 3km from the peaks of the Tatra Mountains.CC BY-SA 2.5

According to a report on birds in Poland prepared for the country’s Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection in 2017, the birds have not been sighted in places more than 600 m above sea level in the past 50 years. 

This explains why Kinga was so surprised to see the birds by her house, though she adds that they were feeling well.

A medium-sized bird, the Eurasian hoopoe is 25-32 cm long, with a pinkish-brown body, black and white wings and a bill that curves downwards.Kinga Mateusiak

Some of the Górale – the highland-dwellers of the Polish mountains – have taken the sighting as a good sign.

It so happens that the plural word for the birds in Polish, “dudki”, sounds similar to the word for money in their dialect, “dutki”.