A MOHICAN feathered visitor struck an unusual sight in Grange Park gardens, bringing keen birdwatchers to West Swindon.

Tanya Hill first spotted the hoopoes in her Poynings Way garden on Friday, prodding its beak into her lawn in search of ants.

The mum-of-one said: “It was beautiful to watch, slow moving and placid.”

Normally found in Africa or southern Europe, hoopoes are about the size of a magpie. The long-beaked birds have orange plumage, with a black and white pattern on their wings. A crown of feathers sticks up around an inch from their heads.


While it is uncommon to find hoopoes in the UK, they sometimes get blown off-course as they migrate from Africa to Europe.

Tanya posted a picture of the bird onto the West Swindon Facebook page on Saturday: "I wondered if it had been a baby bird and if anyone else had seen it."

A message was also sent to thousands of keen birdwatchers through programme Rare Bird Alert.

By Sunday, there were a dozen birdwatchers touring quite suburban streets in the hope of spotting the hoopoe.

“If you looked out the back windows there was the bird,” Tanya said. “If you looked out of the front windows there were birdwatchers.”


The hoopoe, which Tanya and her family nicknamed Hoopy, appeared to be searching for tasty ants in Tanya's lawn. She said it had left holes in the grass with its beak.

The four rabbits that share Tanya's garden appeared nonplussed by the presence of the unusual visitor."There's one cheeky magpie that comes and nicks the fur off the rabbits' backs," she said. But the hoopoe did not seem to share this trait.

Pete Brash, an ecologist at Swindon-based charity the National Trust, suggested the mystery bird could be a youngster that' left southern Europe for Africa, but flew the wrong way.

He said: "Hoopoes don’t breed in Britain but do get seen in spring and autumn migration. Spring birds have usually overshot their normal continental breeding grounds. An autumn bird is mostly likely a youngster that’s headed out in the wrong direction."