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Wryneck

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Wrynecks

Eurasian Wryneck
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Piciformes
Family:Picidae
Genus
Jynx

The wrynecks are a small but distinctive group of small Old World woodpeckers.

Like the true woodpeckers, wrynecks have large heads, long tongues which they use to extract their insect prey and zygodactyl feet, with two toes pointing forward, and two backwards. However, they lack the stiff tail feathers that the true woodpeckers use when climbing trees, so they are more likely than their relatives to perch on a branch rather than an upright trunk.

Their bills are shorter and less dagger like than in the true woodpeckers, but their chief prey is ants and other insects, which they find in decaying wood or almost bare soil. They re-use woodpecker holes for nesting, rather than making their own holes. The eggs are white, as with many hole nesters.

The two species have cryptic plumage, with intricate patterning of greys and browns. The voice is a nasal woodpecker-like call.

These birds get their English name from their ability to turn their heads almost 180 degrees. When disturbed at the nest, they use this snake-like head twisting and hissing as a threat display. This odd behaviour led to their use in witchcraft, hence to put a "jinx" on someone.

Two species:

Eurasian Wryneck, Jynx torquilla

This species breeds in temperate regions of Europe and Asia. It is migratory, wintering in tropical Africa and southern Asia. It is a bird of open woodland and orchards. On migration it is frequently seen in sandy areas, where it forages for ants.

Rufous-necked Wryneck, or Red-breasted Wryneck, Jynx ruficollis

This is the non-migratory counterpart of the Eurasian species, and is resident in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a savannah bird, which requires trees with old woodpecker or barbet holes for nesting.



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