Squabbling Hoopoes

Drawing of two hoopoes in disagreement

Hoopoes are lovely birds and there was great excitement here in Yorkshire last summer when one settled in a field close to Wetherby. We saw quite a few on our trip to the Ebro Delta in Spain in September 2019 and I was keen to have a go at drawing some.

Reference photo for hoopoe drawing.
Reference photo

I made a very simple mistake with this drawing. It’s from a reference photo that was taken by our guide for that trip. I really wanted to capture the interaction between the two birds. Were they squabbling about food or who’s next to clean out the nest? The problem with the photo was that they were sitting on a not very attractive fence. I decided in my innocence, and possibly arrogance that I would replace the fence with a branch and then sort of copy the bottom halves of the birds.  

The top bit went ok – if a bit cartoon-ish. When I came to working on the bottom halves, it was just impossible. Any competant artist would have told me that, but there wasn’t one handy. Of course it’s not just the shapes that are important. As I drew what I thought I could see through the wire links of the fence, it slowly dawned on me that the light, the shadows and the colours were going to be totally different. I don’t have enough experience, confidence or knowledge to create a drawing based on what might be there. My solution was a total cop-out in that I simply did what I would do with a digital image and just cropped it.  It’s now a oddly shaped picture but I am quite pleased with the result, despite the long neck for the left hand one. I hope I’m forgiven for a bit of anthropomorphism here? Perhaps he is utterly appalled at the accusations being leveled at him by the girl on the right?  

I am on the look out for more dynamic images to attempt as I do want to draw more movement. The challenge is part of the fun. 


  1. Firstly, I couldn’t have forgiven you for a bit of anthropomorphism until I had looked this word up in the dictionary. Now that I have an idea of its meaning, I can honestly say that I am also guilty of this – after all, having 2 dogs and 10 cats and being surrounded by loads of birds, reptiles and other creatures, how couldn’t I be?
    Secondly, I think your drawing’s great and you do capture the movement!
    As yet the hoopoes (‘abubilla’ in Spanish) haven’t arrived here, but usually they come in their noisy flocks in the late spring. At first I thought they were woodpeckers!
    Do keep drawing, well done!!!


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