|Green wood hoopoe (P. purpureus)|
The genus contains the following species:
- White-headed wood hoopoe (Phoeniculus bollei)
- Forest wood hoopoe (Phoeniculus castaneiceps)
- Violet wood hoopoe (Phoeniculus damarensis)
- Black-billed wood hoopoe (Phoeniculus somaliensis)
- Green wood hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus)
Members of this genus have long, slightly down-curved, pointed bills with stout bases. Most spend the day in flocks of 5 to 12 birds, acrobatically climbing in trees or hanging underneath branches, sticking their bills into crevices in search of insects and other small arthropods. They may brace themselves with their long tails as woodpeckers do, but the tail feathers are not stiff like woodpeckers' and wear easily. Though their feet are strong, their floppy and bounding flight is weak and not sustained long. They are noisy and may take breaks from foraging to engage in a "rally": they "cackle" or "chuckle" together and rock back and forth, the wings half opened, the tail oscillating up and down. This ceremony helps keep the group together.
The groups consist largely of parents, helpers, and young. Helpers are birds that, instead of breeding, help another pair defend the nest and feed the young. This practice improves reproductive success. The helpers may breed the following year; as a result of the bonds they formed with the young they helped, the latter may become their helpers in turn.
- Fry, C. Hilary (2003). "Wood-hoopoes". In Perrins, Christopher. The Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. p. 383. ISBN 1-55297-777-3.
- Zimmerman, Dale A.; Turner, Donald A.; Pearson, David J. (1999). Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Princeton University Press. pp. 395–396. ISBN 978-0-691-01022-9.
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