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Wrynecks are two species of small, woodpecker-like birds. Wrynecks are in the family Picidae, which also includes the woodpeckers and piculets. However, the distinctively different wrynecks are in their own sub-family, the Junginae. Wrynecks received their common name from their habit of twisting their head and neck when disturbed.

The plumage of wrynecks is a mottled and cryptic brown, grey, and black. Wrynecks are somewhat less specialized feeders than the true woodpeckers. They lack the stiff propping tail feathers of the woodpeckers, do not climb vertical tree-trunks, and do not drill holes in bark and wood. Wrynecks do, however, nest in cavities in trees, although they do not excavate these for themselves.

Wrynecks forage on the ground for their food of ants and other small invertebrates. Their usual habitat is angiosperm-dominated forests.

The wryneck (Jynx torquilla) breeds widely in forests of Eurasia and north Africa, and migrates to sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia. The African wryneck (J. ruficollis) occurs in forests in Africa.

Bill Freedman

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