Wiedehopf (Upupa epops), beim Anflug auf seine Nisthoehle mit Kaefer im Schnabel, Ungarn | hoopoe (Upupa epops), approaching the breeding cave with feed in the bill, Hungary [ Rechtehinweis: picture alliance / blickwinkel ]

The last time a breeding pair of hoopoes was sighted in Berlin was in 1993, since then the bird has been considered extinct in the city. Until now: For the first time in 30 years, hoopoes have been proven to breed in the capital. This was announced by the Berlin regional association of the Nature Conservation Union (Nabu).

Two pairs took care of their offspring, they bred in special nesting boxes in the bird sanctuary Flughafensee in Tegel. The Nabu Airport Lake working group set up the nesting boxes at the beginning of March.

“As early as mid-April we noticed a calling hoopoe, ten days later there were two, and in mid-May there were seven eggs in one of the nest boxes,” says Frank Sieste, head of Nabu-AG Flughafensee. “We are incredibly pleased that we were able to settle the ‘Bird of the Year 2022’ with us. This is a small sensation for Berlin.”

Thanks to the commitment of the Nabu members, the birds found enough insects in the protected area. “The hoopoe has higher demands on food sources than other birds,” says Sieste, “it needs grasshoppers or other larger insects.”

The conservationist discovered the nesting birds relatively early, but kept the news secret until the young birds had fledged. “We wanted to prevent amateur ornithologists and amateur photographers from disturbing the breeding birds,” says Sieste.

A total of nine juveniles have already flown, five of which could be ringed in time. One pair even had a second brood, five young birds had already hatched, but then they fell victim to the extremely high temperatures in the city and died because of the heat. The parents are now gone too.

The fact that the hoopoes breed in the Flughafensee bird sanctuary also has a political note. Because the Nabu has been fighting for years to have the area designated as a nature reserve. In 2021, the environmental organization submitted a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to the then Senator for the Environment Regine Günther (Greens), demanding this expulsion.

However, the corresponding department in the Senate Environmental Administration is dramatically understaffed, which is why the reserve is not protected to this day.

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The catastrophic staffing has already been heavily criticized by several experts who work as advisors to the environmental administration. The breeding hoopoes are therefore a further argument for placing the area under nature protection in the near future.

“Young hoopoes fly away shortly after leaving the nest, often very far,” says Sieste. “But we hope that they will return to Berlin and breed here next year.” That’s why the volunteers want to build and set up more nesting boxes, for example on Hahneberg. The Hobrechtsfelde estate or the Gatow airfield are also suitable habitats.