Eurasian wryneck

The Eurasian wryneck (Jynx torquilla) is a species of wryneck in the woodpecker family. This species mainly breeds in temperate regions of Europe and Asia. Most populations are migratory, wintering in tropical Africa and in southern Asia from Iran to the Indian Subcontinent, but some are resident in northwestern Africa. It is a bird of open countryside, woodland and orchards.

Eurasian wrynecks measure about 16.5 cm (6.5 in) in length and have bills shorter and less dagger-like than those of other woodpeckers. Their upperparts are barred and mottled in shades of pale brown with rufous and blackish bars and wider black streaks. Their underparts are cream speckled and spotted with brown. Their chief prey is ants and other insects, which they find in decaying wood or on the ground. The eggs are white as is the case with many birds that nest in holes and a clutch of seven to ten eggs is laid during May and June.

These birds get their English name from their ability to turn their heads through 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.

Eurasian wryneck
Northern wryneck by David Raju (cropped)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Genus: Jynx
J. torquilla
Binomial name
Jynx torquilla
See text
Jynx torquilla distr
Range map for Eurasian wryneck
     Summer      Resident      Winter

Taxonomy and etymology

The Eurasian wryneck was first described by Carl Linnaeus in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae in 1758. The type species came from Sweden.[2]

The genus name Jynx is from the Ancient Greek name for this bird, iunx. The specific torquilla is Medieval Latin derived from torquere, to twist, referring to the strange snake-head movements.[3] The bird was used as a charm to bring back an errant lover, the bird being tied to a piece of string and whirled around.[3] The English "wryneck" refers to the same twisting movement and was first recorded in 1585.[4]

The family Picidae has four subfamilies, the Picinae (woodpeckers), the Picumninae (piculets), the Jynginae (wrynecks) and the monotypic Nesoctitinae (Antillean piculet).[5] Based on morphology and behaviour, the Picumninae was considered to be the sister clade of the Picinae. This has now been confirmed by phylogenetic analysis and the Jynginae are placed basal to the Picinae, Nesoctitinae and Picumninae.[5]

Jynginae includes one genus (Jynx) and two species, the Eurasian wryneck and the red-throated wryneck (Jynx ruficollis), resident in sub-Saharan Africa.[6] There are six subspecies of Jynx torquilla: [7]

  • Jynx torquilla chinensis Hesse, 1911
  • Jynx torquilla himalayana Vaurie, 1959
  • Jynx torquilla mauretanica Rothschild, 1909
  • Jynx torquilla sarudnyi Loudon, 1912
  • Jynx torquilla torquilla Linnaeus, 1758
  • Jynx torquilla tschusii O. Kleinschmidt,1907


Jynx torquilla -Norway-8 (1)
In Norway

The Eurasian wryneck grows to about 17 cm (6.7 in) in length.[2] The subspecies Jynx torquilla tschusii weighs 26 to 50 g (0.92 to 1.76 oz).[8] It is a slim, elongated-looking bird with a body shape more like a thrush than a woodpecker. The upperparts are barred and mottled in shades of pale brown with rufous and blackish bars and wider black streaks. The rump and upper tail coverts are grey with speckles and irregular bands of brown. The rounded tail is grey, speckled with brown, with faint bands of greyish-brown and a few more clearly defined bands of brownish-black. The cheeks and throat are buff barred with brown. The underparts are creamy white with brown markings shaped like arrow-heads which are reduced to spots on the lower breast and belly. The flanks are buff with similar markings and the under-tail coverts are buff with narrow brown bars. The primaries and secondaries are brown with rufous-buff markings. The beak is brown, long and slender with a broad base and sharp tip. The irises are hazel and the slender legs and feet are pale brown. The first and second toes are shorter than the others. The first and fourth toes point backwards and the second and third point forwards, a good arrangement for clinging to vertical surfaces.[2]

The call of the Eurasian wryneck is a series of repeated harsh, shrill notes quee-quee-quee-quee lasting for several seconds and is reminiscent of the voice of the lesser spotted woodpecker. Its alarm call is a short series of staccato "tuck"s and when disturbed on the nest it hisses.[2]

Distribution and habitat

a Eurasian wryneck making calls

The Eurasian wryneck has a palearctic distribution. The breeding range of the nominate subspecies includes all of Europe from Britain to the Urals. In the north it reaches the Arctic Circle and the range includes Spain in the southwest. In the south and east it intergrades with J. t. tschusii (smaller and more reddish brown) which is found in Corsica, Italy, Dalmatia and parts of the Balkans. J. t. mauretanica (also smaller than the nominate form, light, with whitish throat and breast) is resident in Algeria and Morocco and possibly also the Balearic Islands, Sardinia and parts of Sicily. J. t. sarudnyi (considerably paler than the nominate with fainter markings) occurs in the Urals and then in a wide strip of Asia through southern Siberia, Central Asia, including the north-western Himalayas to the Pacific coast. J. t. chinensis breeds in eastern Siberia and northeastern and central China while J. t. himalayana breeds in Pakistan and the northwestern Himalayas.[9] Eurasian wrynecks also inhabit the island of Sakhalin,[10] Japan and the coastal areas of southern China.[11][12]

The Eurasian wryneck is the only European woodpecker to undertake long distance migrations. The wintering area of European species is located south of the Sahara, in a wide strip across Africa extending from Senegal, Gambia and Sierra Leone in the west to Ethiopia in the east. Its southern limit extends to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon. The populations from West Asia use the same wintering areas. The Central and East Asian breeding birds winter in the Indian subcontinent or southern East Asia including southern Japan.[2]

During the summer the bird is found in open countryside, parkland, gardens, orchards, heaths and hedgerows, especially where there are some old trees. It may also inhabit deciduous woodland and in Scandinavia it also occurs in coniferous forests.[2]


Eurasian wryneck twisting its neck

The Eurasian wryneck sometimes forms small groups during migration and in its winter quarters but in the summer is usually found in pairs. It characteristically holds its head high with its beak pointing slightly upwards. A mutual display that occurs at any time of year involves two birds perched facing each other with their heads far back and beaks wide open, bobbing their heads up and down. Sometimes the head is allowed to slump sideways and hang limply. On other occasions, when excited, the head is shaken and twisted about violently. When disturbed on the nest or held in the hand, the neck contorts and twists in all directions. The bird sometimes feigns death and hangs limply with eyes closed.[2]

Jynx torquilla 1 (Martin Mecnarowski)
Eurasian wrynecks use their necks in display

On returning to the breeding area after migration, the birds set up territories. On farmland in Switzerland it has been found that old pear orchards with large numbers of ant nests are preferentially selected over other habitats. Areas used for vegetable cultivation provided useful habitat when they include areas of bare ground on which the birds can forage.[13] Territories are not chosen at random as arriving birds favoured certain areas over others with the same territories being colonised first year after year. The presence of other Eurasian wrynecks in the vicinity is also a positive influence. Orchards in general, and older ones in particular, provide favoured territories, probably because the dense foliage is more likely to support high numbers of aphids and the ground beneath has scant vegetation cover, both of which factors increase the availability of ants, the birds' main prey. Despite some territories being consistently chosen over others, reproductive success in these territories was no higher than in others.[14] Limiting factors for such crevice-nesting species as Eurasian wrynecks are both the availability of nesting sites and the number of ants and their ease of discovery. Modern farming practices such as the removal of hedges, forest patches and isolated trees and the increasing use of fertilisers and pesticides are disadvantageous to such birds.[15]

The diet of the Eurasian wryneck consists chiefly of ants but beetles and their larvae, moths, spiders and woodlice are also eaten. Although much time is spent in the upper branches of trees, the bird sometimes perches in low bushes and mostly forages on the ground, moving around with short hops with its tail held in a raised position. It can cling to tree trunks, often moving obliquely, and sometimes pressing its tail against the surface as a prop. It does not make holes in bark with its beak but picks up prey with a rapid extension and retraction of its tongue and it sometimes catches insects while on the wing. Its flight is rather slow and undulating.[2]


Jynx torquilla MHNT ZOO 2010 11 162 Le monetier les bains
Eggs of Jynx torquilla MHNT

The nesting site is variable and may be in a pre-existing hole in a tree trunk, a crevice in a wall, a hole in a bank, a sand martin's burrow or a nesting box.[2] In its search for a safe, protected site out of reach of predators, it sometimes evicts a previous occupant, its eggs and nestlings.[16] It uses no nesting material and a clutch of normally seven to ten eggs is laid (occasionally five, six, eleven or twelve). The eggs average 20.8 by 15.4 millimetres (0.82 in × 0.61 in) and weigh about 0.2 g (0.007 oz). They are a dull white colour and partially opaque. Both sexes are involved in incubation which takes twelve days, but the female plays the greater part. Both parents feed the chicks for about twenty days before they fledge. There is usually a single brood.[2]


The IUCN lists the Eurasian wryneck as being of "Least Concern" in its Red List of Threatened Species. This is because it has a world population estimated at up to fifteen million individual birds and a very wide geographical range. The population may be decreasing to a certain extent but not at such a rate as to make the bird reach the threshold for a more threatened category.[1] In continental Europe, the largest populations are in Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Belarus and Ukraine, and only in Romania is the population trend believed to be upward. In Russia, where there are believed to be 300,000 to 800,000 individuals, the population trend is unknown.[17] In the United Kingdom the numbers of bird are on the decrease and it is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and is listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention. It is protected as a migratory species under the Birds Directive in the European Union.[18] In Switzerland, the population has also been decreasing, but the species has reacted positively to conservation measures such as the addition of nestboxes in suitable habitats.[19]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Jynx torquilla". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Witherby, H. F., ed. (1943). Handbook of British Birds, Volume 2: Warblers to Owls. H. F. and G. Witherby Ltd. pp. 292–296.
  3. ^ a b Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 212, 388. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ "Wryneck". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ a b Benz, Brett W.; Robbins, Mark B.; Peterson, A. Townsend (2006). "Evolutionary history of woodpeckers and allies (Aves: Picidae): Placing key taxa on the phylogenetic tree". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 40 (2): 389–399. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.02.021. PMID 16635580.
  6. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Jynx ruficollis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  7. ^ Lepage, Denis. "Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) Linnaeus, 1758". Avibase. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
  8. ^ CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  9. ^ "Eurasian Wryneck - Jynx torquilla: Subspecies". Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  10. ^ "Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)". Sakhalin Check List. Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  11. ^ Butchart, S.; Ekstrom, J. "Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla". BirdLife International. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
  12. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Jynx torquilla". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  13. ^ Mermod, M.; Reichlin, T. S.; Arlettaz, R.; Schaub, M. (2009). "The importance of ant-rich habitats for the persistence of the Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) on farmland". Ibis. 151 (4): 731–742. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2009.00956.x.
  14. ^ Mermod, Murielle; Arlettaz, R.; Schaub, P. D. M. (2008). "Key ecological features for the persistence of an endangered migratory woodpecker of farmland, the wryneck (Jynx torquilla)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-05.
  15. ^ Coudrain, Valérie; Arlettaz, Raphaël; Schaub, Michael (2010). "Food or nesting place? Identifying factors limiting Wryneck populations" (PDF). Journal of Ornithology. 161 (4): 867–880. doi:10.1007/s10336-010-0525-9.
  16. ^ Alerstam, Thomas; Högstedt, Göran (1981). "Evolution of hole-nesting in birds". Ornis Scandinavica. 12 (3): 188–193. doi:10.2307/3676076. JSTOR 3676076.
  17. ^ "Jynx torquilla: Eurasian wryneck" (PDF). Birds in Europe: Wrynecks, Woodpeckers. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  18. ^ "Wryneck Jynx torquilla". ARKive. Wildscreen. Archived from the original on 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
  19. ^ " - Conservation du torcol fourmilier". Retrieved 2017-06-02.

See also

Eldgarnsö Nature Reserve

Eldgarnsö Nature Reserve (Swedish: Eldgarnsö naturreservat) is a nature reserve in Stockholm County in Sweden.

Eldgarnsö Nature Reserve consists of Eldgarnsö island in Lake Mälaren. A 6-kilometre-long (3.7 mi) trail runs around the island. The nature reserve consists of on the one hand an area of broad-leaf forest, and on the other of an area which is more mixed, containing arable land, coniferous forest and beach meadows with shallow water overgrown with reeds.


In Greek mythology, Iynx was an Arkadian Oreiad nymph; a daughter of the god Pan and Echo. She cast a spell on Zeus which caused him to fall in love with Io. In consequence of this, Hera metamorphosed her into the bird called iynx (Eurasian wryneck, jynx torquilla).According to another story, she was a daughter of Pierus, and as she and her sisters had presumed to enter into a musical contest with the Muses, she was changed into the bird iynx. This bird, the symbol of passionate and restless love, was given by Aphrodite to Jason, who, by turning it round and pronouncing certain magic words, excited the love of Medea.

Järveküla Nature Reserve

Järveküla Nature Reserve is a nature reserve founded in 1990, situated by Lake Vörtsjärv in southern Estonia (Viljandi County) near the village of Järveküla. The nature reserve has been established to protect the population of white-tailed eagles present in the area, and includes pine forest and patches of bog.Other birds found in Järveküla Nature Reserve include: the Barn swallow (the national bird of Estonia), Eurasian wryneck, Eurasian golden oriole, Icterine warbler, River warbler, Spotted flycatcher, Eurasian tree sparrow, Common chaffinch, European greenfinch, European pied flycatcher, Eurasian skylark, Fieldfare, White wagtail, Yellowhammer, Hooded crow, Garden warbler, Grey heron, Eurasian blue tit, Eurasian blackcap, Common rosefinch, European goldfinch and Common chiffchaff among others.

Lake Koman

Lake Koman (Albanian: Liqeni i Komanit) is a reservoir on the Drin River in northern Albania. Lake Koman is surrounded by dense forested hills, vertical slopes, deep gorges, and a narrow valley, completely taken up by the river. Besides the Drin, it is fed by the Shala and Valbona Rivers. The lake stretches in an area of 34 km2 (13 sq mi), its width being 400 m (0.25 mi). The narrowest gorge, which is surrounded by vertical canyon walls, is more than 50 m (0.031 mi) wide. The reservoir was constructed between 1979 and 1988 near the village of Koman with a height of 115 m (377 ft).The combination of specific topography and hydrological conditions, have contributed to the formation of different habitats. The golden jackal, red fox, european badger, eurasian otter, beech marten, european polecat are the primary predatory mammals. A high number of bird species have been observed in the region, including the common kingfisher, common quail, grey heron, eurasian wryneck, great spotted woodpecker and black-headed gull.The Lake Koman Ferry operates daily on the lake from Koman to Fierza. The ferry connects the city of Bajram Curri to the region of Tropojë. The journey takes about two and a half hours and is also popular with the foreign tourists. Smaller boats bring people and goods to remote villages, which are often far away from the lake, but can only be reached by water.

Les Landes

Les Landes is an area of coastal heathland in the north-west of Jersey. It has been designated as a Site of Special Interest (SSI) since 1996.The site is the largest of its kind in Jersey at 160 ha.

Linudden Nature Reserve

Linudden Nature Reserve (Swedish: Linuddens naturreservat) is a nature reserve in Södermanland County in Sweden. It is part of the EU-wide Natura 2000-network.

The purpose of the nature reserve is to preserve an area of mixed broadleaf forest dominated by birch, aspen, linden and common hazel. The flora contains species such as unspotted lungwort, Viola mirabilis, common toothwort and giant bellflower. The nature reserve also has a rich bird-life, rich in Old World warblers but the nature reserve also serves as a habitat for species such as nightingale, Eurasian wryneck and different kinds of woodpeckers. Sörmlandsleden passes through the nature reserve.

List of Piciformes by population

This is a list of Piciformes species by global population. While numbers are estimates, they have been made by the experts in their fields. For more information on how these estimates were ascertained, see Wikipedia's articles on population biology and population ecology.

This list is not comprehensive, as not all Piciformes have had their numbers quantified.

List of birds of Greece

This is a list of the bird species recorded in Greece. The avifauna of Greece included a total of 454 species according to the Hellenic Rarities Committee of the Hellenic Ornithological Society (Ελληνική Ορνιθολογική Εταιρεία) as of August 2019. Of them, four have not been recorded since 1950 and two have been introduced by humans.This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (English and scientific names) are those of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 2019 edition.The following tags have been used to highlight several categories of occurrence. Species without tags are regularly occurring residents, migrants, or seasonal visitors which have been recorded since 1 January 1950.

(*) Rare in Greece; reports of these 119 species require submission to the Hellenic Rarities Committee for inclusion in the official record.

(B) Species which have not occurred in Greece since 1 January 1950.

(C) Species that do not occur naturally in Greece, although breeding populations have been introduced by humans.

List of birds of Kyrgyzstan

376 bird species have occurred in the Kyrgyz Republic.

List of birds of North America (Piciformes)

The birds listed below all belong to the biological order Piciformes, and are native to North America.

List of birds of San Marino

This is a list of the bird species recorded in San Marino. The avifauna of San Marino include a total of 96 species, none of which are introduced or endemic.

This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of the Association of European Rarities Committees.

Mizoram University

Mizoram University is a central university under the University Grants Commission, Government of India, and was established on 2 July 2001, by the Mizoram University Act (2000) of the Parliament of India. The President of India is the official Visitor, and the Governor of Mizoram acts as the Chief Rector as per Mizoram University (Amendment) Bill, 2007. According to the Act, the objectives of the university are "to disseminate and advance knowledge by providing instructional and research facilities in such branches of learning as it may deem fit, to make provisions for integrated courses in humanities, natural and physical sciences, social sciences, forestry and other allied disciplines in the educational programmes of the University; to take appropriate measures for promoting innovations in teaching-disciplinary studies and research; to educate and train man-power in the development of the state of Mizoram; and to pay special attention to the improvement of the social and economic conditions and welfare of the people of that State, their intellectual, academic and cultural development". Keeping these objectives in view, Mizoram University has embarked on various programmes for academic and administrative development.

Province of Mantua

The Province of Mantua (Italian: provincia di Mantova; Mantovano, Lower Mantovano: pruvincia ad Mantua; Upper Mantovano: pruinsa de Mantua) is a province in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Its capital is the city of Mantua. It is bordered to the north-east by the Province of Verona, to the east by that of Rovigo, to the south by those of Ferrara, Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma, to the west by the Province of Cremona and to the north-west by that of Brescia.

Red-throated wryneck

The red-throated wryneck (Jynx ruficollis) is a species of wryneck in the woodpecker family. It is also known as the rufous-necked wryneck, red-breasted wryneck, African wryneck or rufous-throated wryneck.[1]

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

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

Sibley-Monroe checklist 2

The Sibley-Monroe checklist was a landmark document in the study of birds. It drew on extensive DNA-DNA hybridisation studies to reassess the relationships between modern birds.

Wildlife of Algeria

The wildlife of Algeria is composed of its flora and fauna. Mountainous, chotts, wetlands and grassy desert-like regions all support a wide range of wildlife. Many of the creatures comprising the Algerian wildlife live in close proximity to civilisation. The most commonly seen animals include the wild boars, jackals, and gazelles, although it is not uncommon to spot fennecs and jerboas. Leopard and cheetah are seldom seen.

A variety of bird species make the country an attraction for bird watchers. Barbary macaques are the sole native monkey. Snakes, monitor lizards, and numerous other reptiles can be found living among an array of rodents throughout the semi arid regions of Algeria.


Woodpeckers are part of the family Picidae, a group of near-passerine birds that also consist of piculets, wrynecks, and sapsuckers. Members of this family are found worldwide, except for Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Madagascar, and the extreme polar regions. Most species live in forests or woodland habitats, although a few species are known that live in treeless areas, such as rocky hillsides and deserts, and the Gila woodpecker specialises in exploiting cacti.

Members of this family are chiefly known for their characteristic behaviour. They mostly forage for insect prey on the trunks and branches of trees, and often communicate by drumming with their beak, producing a reverberatory sound that can be heard at some distance. Some species vary their diet with fruits, birds' eggs, small animals, and tree sap. They mostly nest and roost in holes that they excavate in tree trunks, and their abandoned holes are of importance to other cavity-nesting birds. They sometimes come into conflict with humans when they make holes in buildings or feed on fruit crops, but perform a useful service by their removal of insect pests on trees.

The Picidae are one of nine living families in the order Piciformes, the others being barbets (comprising three families), toucans, toucan-barbets, and honeyguides which (along with woodpeckers) comprise the clade Pici, and the jacamars and puffbirds in the clade Galbuli. DNA sequencing has confirmed the sister relationships of these two groups. The family Picidae includes about 240 species arranged in 35 genera. Almost 20 species are threatened with extinction due to loss of habitat or habitat fragmentation, with one, the Bermuda flicker, being extinct and a further two probably being so.


Ågestasjön (Swedish for "Lake of Ågesta") is a small lake in Huddinge Municipality south of Stockholm, Sweden.

Ågestasjön forms part of the Tyresån Lake System and, with a biodiversity unique in the Stockholm region, is highly popular among birdwatchers and ornithologists. The lake also forms part of the Orlången Nature Reserve and one of the green wedges stretching into central Stockholm.The lakes receives water from Lake Trehörningen and in its northern end empties into Magelungen. For a brief history of the area see Trehörningen.


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