Teutonic Safari Spotting Rare Wild Animals in Germany

Wolves, big cats, colorful birds: Anyone craving a safari doesn't have to visit Africa -- with a few tricks, rare animals can be tracked down in Germany too. SPIEGEL ONLINE presents 10 destinations for viewing especially shy native species.

By Lisa Goldmann

A couple of hoopoes. They're about to head south but will be back next March.

A couple of hoopoes. They're about to head south but will be back next March.

The hoopoe is an impressive-looking bird with its long beak, red plumage, black-and-white striped wings and tail, and exotic crown. "If you come along with me, you're pretty sure to spot a hoopoe," says Engelbert Mayer of the Kaiserstuhl wildlife conservation association in south-western Germany. He has been organizing excursions to see the rare bird for years.

The migrant hoopoe is currently heading south and will be back next March. The male returns to the breeding place he chose the previous autumn. He'll sit there and call until a female flutters by to mate. They breed in holes in tree trunks or in small sheds.

The Kaiserstuhl, a range of low mountains, has had a conservation program for the hoopoe for the last 23 years, and its population has grown from a handful of pairs to more than 100 as a result. Mayer and his colleagues have put up breeding boxes, which is why the ornithologist knows the best places for observing the attractive birds.

"The special thing about the hoopoe is his looks," says Mayer, "especially when he spreads his fan." It takes a lot of concentration to witness the spectacle. When the hoopoe approaches the nest or flies out of it, it always briefly sits down somewhere nearby. That's the moment. Only when it sits down does it spread its fan. When it's sitting, it folds its feathers back down.


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