Eurasian Wryneck

Eurasian Wryneck  Jynx torquilla


  • Jynx : Greek word for “ Wryneck “. An important bird in ancient superstition, especially as a charm to bring back astrayed lover where the unfortunate bird being tied to a length of string was whirled around.
  • Torquilla: Latin word torquere –to twist. The bird is called thus because of its strange serpentine head movements.

Vernacular Names:  Hindi: Gardanaintha, Kash:Viri mot, Pun:Sappni, Cachar: Dao gogu,Guj: Thad-ranga, Dokamardi, Mar:Chitrang, Manmodi, Te:Medanulingadu

Distribution in India: Breeds in North West Himalayas and widespread winter visitorin India.

Description: Size of 16–18 cm; wt. of 30–50 g. It is a small, aberrant, long-tailed woodpecker with short, pointed bill very narrow across nostrils. Both sexes have forehead to hindneck pale grey, speckled darker, finely barred black and rufous, with tiny white feather tips. They have narrow creamy stripe from nostril to below eye; thin creamy supercilium, broad rufous-mottled black band from eye through upper ear-coverts and irregularly down neck side. They have buff to cinnamon-buff stripe from bill base to lower ear-coverts and neck side, usually finely barred dark; upperparts are pale grey, finely dark-speckled and with narrow dark shaft streaks, feathers are with black, rufous and whitish marks at tips. The central mantle is black and edged rufous, this pattern often continuing as irregular band up to crown centre. The outer scapulars are black, large pale buffish spot at tip. The wing-coverts and tertials are brownish-buff; speckled grey and rufous-buff, thin black shaft streaks, black subterminal bars, and creamy tips. The primaries and secondaries are dark brown with rufous-buff spot-bars. The tail is with 4–5 irregular, thin black bars often bordered by grey and buff bands. The chin is whitish, throat and upper breast buff or cinnamon-buff, all narrowly vermiculated black, often incomplete dark malar stripe. Rest of underparts are whitish with variable cream or buff suffusion, narrow dark bars on breast, arrowhead marks on lower underparts, underwingis barred grey and white, coverts are buff with black bars. The bill is dark horn-brown, often tinged green; iris is brown to red-brown; legs are brownish to grey-green, occasionally tinged yellow or pink.

Habitat: It is found in open forest, clearings, woodland with low undergrowth, wooded pasture, and unimproved meadowland with scattered trees, so long as dry and sunlit, and grass areas not too well developed, plantations, parks, orchards, larger gardens and non-intensive farmland. In non-breeding season it is found in open dry woodland, bushy grassland and gardens, scrub, thickets, also in canopy of forest and in cultivations. It is found in lowlands up to 3300m.

Food habits: It eats ants, mainly larvae and pupae; other insects likesmall beetles, aphids, Lepidoptera, dipteran flies, bugs,spiders , woodlice , molluscs, frog tadpoles, bird eggs and rarely, plant matter like berries. It forages mainly on the ground and occasionally in trees. It procures prey from crevices or from the surface. It uses the bill to open anthills. It hops on ground and along horizontal or sloping branches.

Breeding  habits: They breed in May–Jun in India. They are territorial; home range is large at start of breeding season, shrinking considerably after pairing. They sing on exposed perch or from prospective nest-hole. On meeting, partners, the breeding display is by head-swinging with ruffled head feathers; courtship feeding may extend into incubation period. The nest-site is selected by both sexes, in natural cavity, in old hole of another woodpecker, or in artificial nest box. The cavity is cleaned out over several days, removes any eggs or chicks of other hole-nester. They lay a clutch of 7–12 eggs. The incubation is done by both adults. The incubation period is 11–12 days. The nestlings are fed by both parents. The adults respond to intruders with characteristic snake-like head movements and hissing. The fledging period is 20–22 days. The chicks are independent after 1–2 weeks.