Family Woodhoopoes (Phoeniculidae)

Least Concern

Green Woodhoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus)


French: Irrisor moqueur German: Baumhopf Spanish: Abubilla arbórea verde
Other common names: Red-billed Woodhoopoe

Promerops purpureus

J. F. Miller

, 1784,

India and Africa = Cape Province, South Africa


Generally considered to form a species-group with P. damarensis and P. somaliensis. The three sometimes treated as conspecific, which may be a more realistic treatment; more study needed. All races apparently intergrade in areas where boundaries meet; birds from W Uganda (ruwenzorae) and KwaZulu-Natal (zuluensis) considered inseparable from marwitzi; erythrorhynchos is a synonym of nominate purpureus. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. p. guineensis (Reichenow, 1902) – S Mauritania, N Senegal and Mali to N Ghana, Nigeria, S Chad and Central African Republic.
  • P. p. senegalensis (Vieillot, 1822) – S Senegal and Gambia E to S Ghana.
  • P. p. niloticus (Neumann, 1903) – S Sudan, W Ethiopia, South Sudan and NE DRCongo.
  • P. p. marwitzi (Reichenow, 1906) – Uganda and Kenya S to NE South Africa (N KwaZulu-Natal); few records in extreme S Somalia.
  • P. p. angolensis (Reichenow, 1902) – Angola and Namibia E to W Zambia and W Zimbabwe and S to N South Africa.
  • P. p. purpureus (J. F. Miller, 1784) – SE South Africa from E Western Cape E to S KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Descriptive notes

    32·5–40 cm; male 54–99 g, female 52–75 g. A large, frequently noisy woodhoopoe. Nominate adult green-glossed; head and throat bluer, nape violet,... read more


    Song (given in territorial encounters, bowing display, prior to copulation or immediately following... read more


    Over its huge range, occurs in wide variety of habitats, including savanna, open woodland (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet consists mostly of arthropods, including adult and larval moths, insect and spider egg masses, beetle larvae, pupae and adults, winged... read more


    Over large range, breeding activity recorded in every month, in tropical regions usually associated with rain: in Senegambia in Apr and Jun... read more


    Mostly resident; possible seasonal movement in W Africa. Highly philopatric in Kenya and South... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Extremely widespread geographically, and often common; in Senegambia, common to locally abundant; in Sierra Leone patchily distributed, locally not... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ligon, D. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Green Woodhoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 April 2020).