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Europese Draaihals.jpg
Eurasian wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Genus: Jynx
Linnaeus, 1758

J. torquilla
J. ruficollis

The wrynecks (genus Jynx) are a small but distinctive group of small Old World woodpeckers. Jynx is from the Ancient Greek iunx, the Eurasian wryneck.[1]

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 are 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 adult moults rapidly between July and September, although some moult continues in its winter quarters.[2] The voice is a nasal woodpecker-like call. Its sound is described as a repetition of the sounds que, que, que, many times in succession, rapid at first, but gradually slowing and in a continually falling key. This is only heard during a few weeks of its stay in Europe.[3]

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. It has occasionally been called "snake-bird" for that reason.[3]

There are two species:

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Wryneck by Pepe Reigada.jpg Jynx torquilla Eurasian wryneck north it reaches the Arctic Circle and the range includes Spain in the southwest
Red-throated Wryneck, Jynx ruficollis at Rietvlei Nature Reserve, Gauteng, South Africa (14564203969).jpg Jynx ruficollis Red-throated wryneck, or Rufous-necked wryneck, sub-Saharan Africa


  1. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 212. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  2. ^ RSPB Handbook of British Birds (2014). UK. ISBN 978-1-4729-0647-2.
  3. ^ a b Newton, Alfred (1911). "Wryneck" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 854.

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