Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoe (Rhinopomastus cyanomelas)

It is a long, matte bird renowned for its slender, greatly-decurved black bill. This bird species avoids forests and thrives in arid, densely-leaved woodlands singly or in pairs. Most of the time, they shin around trunks, foraging for invertebrates, sometimes joining other mixed-species groups. It is easily detected through its wistful, whistled “wheep-wheep-wheep” call.

Read further to know more about the Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoe.

What is a Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoe?

Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoe (Rhinopomastus cyanomelas) or the common scimitarbill is a bird species belonging in the family Phoeniculidae. They are near-passerine and resident birds living south of sub-Saharan Africa. While their family is restricted to south of the Sahara Desert, fossils linked to their family have feed discovered in Germany’s Miocene rocks.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Bucerotiformes

Family: Phoeniculidae

Genus: Rhinopomastus

Species: R. cyanomelas

Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoe Physical Description

It is a long bird with a matte-black plumage and a distinct, slender, greatly-decurved dark bill, where it got its name. They have short, black legs with thick tarsi, which they use to climb tree trunks and branches. When in flight, its white tail tips are conspicuous, while a single white band also occurs towards the wing’s edges. They are very similar to the Black Scimitarbill, but it has a relatively shorter and less bent bill. Meanwhile, the Abyssian Smitarbill differs from them by having an orange bill.

Where can they be spotted?

Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoes thrives in tropical and subtropical woodland, scrubland, savannas, preferring those with Mopane and Miombo trees while avoiding dense canopy woodlands. It occurs in Kenya, Tanzania, DR Congo, Malawi, and pretty common in Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoe

Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoes primarily feeds on insects, such as ants, mantids, wasps, caterpillars, beetles, flies, and insect larvae. Other food items it consumes include spiders, nectar, and grubs. It forages by running up and down on branches and trunks, searching for food using its bill, and utilizing its tails for balance.

These birds nest in tree cavities, both natural or those created by woodpeckers and barbet. It uses the same nesting site on subsequent breeding seasons and will often compete with barbets and starling for nesting locations.

Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoe’s breeding and egg-laying seasons vary depending on the range. The female will lay a clutch of 2-4 eggs, which she solely incubates for approximately 13 to 14 days. Broods will fledge at around 21 to 24 days old, typically in the morning, with its first few flight attempts, at 10 to 50 meters long.

The bird species is not threatened is common in southern Africa. While their population is on a decline due to the destruction of large trees which serve as their nesting, roosting, and foraging ground, it doesn’t reach thresholds, and they are still classified as Least Concern (LC) under the IUCN Red List.



Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Makgadikgadi Pan

Mashatu Game Reserve

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve



Kruger National Park

Madikwe Game Reserve


Caprivi Region


Etosha National Park

Namib-Naukluft National Park

Skeleton Coast



Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park




Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls


Scimitarbilled Woodhoopoe