Wryneck

Wryneck Jynx torquilla.

 

Other English names: Northern Wryneck, Eurasian Wryneck.

Genus: Jynx, Linnaeus 1758. First described by Linnaeus in 1758.

 

WryneckBastaja

Above: Adult Wryneck, Izsak Ringing Camp, August 2005, Hungary (Dan Bastaja). The crown feathers are raised in alarm. Note the very fine, sharp bill.

 

Distribution/Range: The breeding range of Wryneck lies entirely within the Palearctic, from France and Iberia eastwards to Japan, between latitudes 35 and 64 degrees. In continental Europe it breeds regularly from sub-arctic Fenno-Scandia (Lapland) to the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Wryneck does not breed in Ireland, where it is a rare vagrant, or Iceland where it is accidental and it now breeds only very rarely in Great Britain. In the 1970s around four pairs in Scotland were thought by many to be the start of a recolonisation, but this did not materialised though a few "secret"? pairs are thought to nest each year. In the British Isles most Wrynecks are seen at coastal observatories. As a breeding species it is more common away from the European coastline, in particular the Atlantic and North Sea coasts of France and the Low Countries, seemingly preferring a drier inland, continental climate. However, Wrynecks do breed on the Atlantic coasts of Norway and northern Spain, so perhaps other factors besides climate, such as habitat land use, are involved. It is unclear which race breeds in Greece, though it is possible that both torquilla and tschusii do. The latter race is also thought to winter there. Some Wrynecks also winter in southern Spain and southern Italy. The bulk of the population however winters in Africa.

 

 

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Above: Adult Wryneck, Landguard, England (Bill Baston). In typical terrestrial pose.

 

IDENTIFICATION

 

Measurements: Length 16-17 cm. Wingspan 25-27 cm. Thus, between the smaller Lesser Spotted and larger Middle Spotted Woodpeckers in size. The tail comprises around a third of overall length.

General: Fairly small and in size and structure perhaps more like a large warbler, a long-tailed chat or small shrike rather than a woodpecker. Has a distinctly non woodpecker-like short, fine, pointed bill with a curved culmen. Unlike other woodpeckers the bill is also smooth and lacks grooves though this cannot be seen in the field. The legs are rather short and indeed structurally are the only really typical woodpecker-like feature. Wryneck has a relatively small head, slim body, long tail rounded at the tip and short, broad and rounded wings. Wrynecks are cryptically patterned and well camouflaged, being coloured by a subtle mosaic of brown, fawn and grey tones with delicate dark vermiculations, streaks, bars and mottling. Though well marked, on distant views birds often appear uniformly greyish with few obviously distinguishing features. The feathers are softer than other woodpeckers, the tongue lacks barbs and the nostrils are round and lack protecting feathers and bristles.

 

Adult male: The sexes are almost identical in plumage and visually rarely separable in the field. Adult males are warmer and richer in colour than females with more rufous and yellowish tones on the under-parts. The base colour of the crown, nape, hind-neck, most of the back, rump and tail is grey, flecked with fine darker specks. The feathers are often pale tipped but this is not really noticeable in the field. The crown is finely barred black and edged with dark brown. A brown line also runs down through the centre of the crown, to the nape, mantle and back. A broad dark brown eye-stripe continues across the ear-coverts and then curves down the sides of the neck. Below this crescent the cheeks are pale yellow-buff. A warm brown band on the mantle and bordering the scapulars is often distinct, as is a dark brown or blackish oval, sometimes diamond-shaped, patch on the upper-mantle. The scapulars have pale edges and dark centres. The grey of the neck continues down to form broad braces at the sides of the mantle, and there is some dark barring on lower back and rump. The tail is finely marked with barring and crossed with four blackish bands though the innermost band may be hidden by the upper-tail coverts. The throat and upper-breast are off-white or buff, occasionally tinged with yellow, and finely barred with brown. A variable pale, white malar stripe may be present. The breast and belly are paler than the upper-parts and dotted with dark streaks and chevrons or arrowheads. The flanks are rufous tinged and flecked with black. The under-tail coverts are creamy white and speckled with black chevrons. The wings are essentially brown with darker flight feathers dotted with reddish and buff spots. The bill is horn-coloured, the legs light brown and the iris chestnut or red.

 

 

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Above: Adult Wryneck, Landguard, England (Bill Baston). In another terrestrial pose.

 

Adult female: In the field all but identical to the male though usually less rufous and often more buff on throat, under-parts and flanks. Also slightly smaller than male but this is rarely noticeable even when pairs are seen together.

 

Juveniles: Juvenile plumage is not always obviously different from that of adults. Indeed, juveniles become almost identical in appearance to adults soon after fledging. The best ID feature is often the markings on the under-parts. Juveniles are lightly streaked and barred whilst adults show chevrons or arrowheads. There are differences in plumage tone, with brown areas duller, rump cream, tertials rufous, and markings on the throat, upper breast and flanks greyish rather than blackish. Also more white bars than adults with fewer, but bolder, black bars on the tail. The iris is greyish-brown rather than bright reddish. Structurally juveniles are more compact with a shorter tail and rounder wings and the outer primary is longer than on adult.