From the Bestiary: Hoopoe

by Heather R. Darsie

The Hoopoe is a very family-oriented bird, according to the Bestiary. “When it sees its parents growing old and their eyes growing dim, the bird…pulls out their feathers, licks their eyes, and warms them until they are rejuvenated.” The logic behind why this description was given is unclear, but is another fanciful illustration of how little was known about animal behavior.

Bibliothèque Municipale de Reims, ms. 993, Folio 160v

 The description continues with, “It is as if it wanted to say: ‘Just as you brought me up, so I want to do the same for you.’ If beasts, without reason, do as much for each other, how much more should men, endowed with reason, care for their parents in return for their care in bringing them up….”

What do you think about the old beliefs surrounding the hoopoe?


Sources & Suggested Reading1. Barber, Richard: translation and introduction. Bestiary: Being an English Version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. M. S. Bodley 764. P. 146. All original miniatures reproduced in facsimile. Woodbridge: 1999


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