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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