© Marcel Burkhardt
Coming to the aid of the hoopoe is an ambitious undertaking, which can succeed owing to the extensive knowledge accumulated during previous studies.
The hoopoe is one of the most widely known and attractive breeding birds in our country. The characteristic species of heterogeneous cultural landscapes breeds in traditional orchards, which are rich in structural elements and extensively grazed floors. It also breeds in vineyards, oak, larch and chestnut groves as well as in landscapes containing networks of hedges and mature trees. The broods are raised in woodpecker cavities and niches of all kinds. In the 1970s, the hoopoe disappeared from the Swiss plateau. Today, it is restricted to regions in the South of Switzerland such as the Valais, Ticino, Grisons and Lake Geneva area.
Alongside the successful recovery programme in the Valais, suitable measures are implemented in various other regions with remnant populations. In the long run, we aim to extend the programme to other horticulture- and viniculture-dominated regions in Switzerland.
In all suitable regions, the following steps are taken:
(a) Evaluate food availability for the hoopoe, in particular the occurrence of mole crickets and other large insects: prove their presence, talk to farmers;
(b) Find the remaining hoopoe breeding pairs;
(c) Install nest boxes at suitable nest sites;
(d) Protect and enhance the habitat: conserve traditional orchards, plant standard (high-stemmed) trees, enhance vineyards. Abandonment of fertilisers enhances insect diversity.
(e) Yearly checking of the broods; marking/ringing the chicks
(f) Analyse the collected data
The recovery programme aims at promoting viable hoopoe populations not only in the Valais but also in the entire country, which is crucial for the long-term persistence of this species in Switzerland. Because the ecological knowledge about the hoopoe is very good, targeted measures can be implemented.
As a side effect, other threatened bird species, such as the little owl and the wryneck, will also benefit from the measures taken in favour of the hoopoe.
Owing to the ecological basics worked out by the Swiss Ornithological Institute, the hoopoe population in the Valais has been effectively promoted. Today, five times as many hoopoes breed in the Valais as in the early 1980s. This success was achieved by providing nest boxes in excess at sites near the valley bottom, which are preferred by the hoopoes due to the high availability of mole crickets.
Valais: Raphael Arlettaz, Swiss Ornithological Institute, Valais branch and Conservation Biology, University of Bern
Graubünden: Erich Muehlethaler, Ornithologische Arbeitsgruppe Graubünden
Ticino: Chiara Scandolara, FICEDULA
Côte vaudoise: Yves Menetrey, Jerome Duplain
Marion J. Hofer-Woodhead-Stiftung