Italian birds are colorful and amazing

Hoopoe Hurray!

Don’t die until you see a Hoopoe. What a stunning bird!

In Italy for the last two weeks of June, we saw many European Hoopoes, entranced by every single one.

Each morning we’d pull out our map and choose a walk on one of the ancient gravel roads that wind up, down, and over the hillsides that surrounded us in Greve, a Tuscany village about 45 minutes south of Florence.

Those walks took us past old homes, vineyards and olive groves, and through forests full of birds. I’m certain the locals made fun of the tourists with binoculars always stuck to their faces! We do a lot of birding in Italy.

On our first trip here a few years ago, we spotted a very colorful bird near a small stream that flows through the village. The bird was yellow, brown, and black with a bright red face.

We thought we’d discovered a most amazing creature, so we raced back to our apartment to haul out our Birds of Europe book, only to discover that it was a very common European Goldfinch! I guess it must be a cousin to the dozens of Goldfinches that crowd our bird feeder at home all winter long.

My first look at a Hoopoe came on this most recent trip when Linda shook me awake at 7 am on our first morning, almost shouting, “You’ve got to see this bird!” And I had to admit, it was magnificent. So I couldn’t be grouchy about getting woken – even though I later learned that the Hoopoe is considered the “bird of ill omen.” We suffered no bad luck.

And the next morning, there were five Hoopoes on the lawn!





George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.