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Eurasian Wryneck - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 00:11, 8 September 2023 by Deliatodd-18346 (talk | contribs) (→‎Distribution: Dictionary link)
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Photo © by Nigel Blake
Norfolk, UK, September 2006
Jynx torquilla


Length 16-18 cm (6-7 in), weight 30-50 g. An unusual, distinctive woodpecker.

  • Mottled grey and brown above
  • Buffish-ochre breast dark vermiculated
  • Whitish belly dark vermiculated
  • Dark line through eye and down neck-side
  • Broad dark line along centre of crown and back
  • Short pointed bill

Sexes similar.

Similar species

Rufous-necked Wryneck has rufous on throat and breast and has streaked (not barred) flanks.

In poor light or at a distance, and particularly in flight, can be mistaken for a Barred Warbler or a small shrike.


Breeds widely across Europe from northern Iberia and western France east to the Urals, Caspian and north Caucasus and across temperate Asia to China and northern Japan. In the north, virtually absent from British Isles, but breeds over most of Scandinavia except the higher mountains and the far north (locally north to 70°N), and across Russia south of 65°N. Breeds south to the northern coast of the Mediterranean from north-east Spain to northern Greece, in southern Portugal, and on Mallorca, Ibiza, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. Also breeds in the Atlas Mountains in northern Algeria and Tunisia.

Mainly a summer visitor but in the far south of range may be partially migratory or resident. Main autumn passage period is August-October, the return in April-May. Passage birds occur throughout Europe, north Africa, the Middle East and southern Asia. Winters in tropical Africa (mainly between 0° to 14°N), India, southeast Asia, southern China and southern Japan.

Formerly a regular and fairly widespread breeder in Britain, now mainly a scarce passage migrant with 200-400 birds per year, mainly in August-October, with occasional summering birds and sporadic breeding records. Similar declines have been seen elsewhere in Europe, particularly in northern France and in North Sea countries.

Accidental vagrant to Iceland (about 15 records) and Alaska (two records).



Subspecies J. t. himalayana
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Keoladeo National Park, India, February 2017

There are 6 subspecies[1]:

  • J. t. torquilla:
  • breeds from western Europe (except for areas occupied by tschusii) east to the Ural Mountains, south to Turkey and Caucasus; winters in central Africa and India
  • J. t. sarudnyi
  • breeds western Siberia, from the Ural Mountains east to the Altai and the Yenisei River
  • J. t. chinensis
  • J. t. himalayana:
  • North-western Himalayas; winters to southern India at lower elevations
  • J. t. tschusii:
  • J. t. mauretanica:
  • Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa; resident

In addition a further subspecies J. t. japonica (Japan) is recognised by some authorities[2].


Open woodland, deciduous or mixed, clearings and edges of forest, orchards, parks and large gardens; also open pine woods, but rarely in other conifers. Nest in a tree-hole. Occurs in a range of more open habitats on passage including cultivated areas, close-cropped grassland, sand-dunes and shingle beaches.

Photo © by jbpixels
Bavaria, Germany, July-2019



Feeds mostly on ants, larvae and pupae, and other insects, which it picks up with the sticky saliva on its long, thin tongue.
Frequently forages on ground, occasionally in trees.


Breeding season from May to June, in south of range a second clutch is sometimes laid in June or July.
Places the nest in an old woodpecker hole, a natural cavity or in a nest box. Lays 7 to 12 white eggs.



  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliot, and J Sargatal, eds. 2002. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 7: Jacamars to Woodpeckers. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334375
  3. Avibase
  4. Woodpeckers of Europe: A Study of the European Picidae. Gerard Gorman. ISBN 1-872842-05-4

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