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Academic & Professional Books  Ornithology  Non-Passerines  Other Non-Passerines

The Wryneck Biology, Behaviour, Conservation and Symbolism of Jynx torquilla

By: Gerard Gorman(Author)
202 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations
The Wryneck
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  • The Wryneck ISBN: 9781784272883 Paperback Feb 2022 In stock
Price: £24.99
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About this book

The Wryneck details the natural history and cultural symbolism of a most unusual woodpecker – a species that neither excavates nest holes in trees, nor bores into wood to find insect prey. The elusive Wryneck is best renowned for performing a twisting, writhing head and neck display when threatened, but this ground-breaking study reveals many more secrets of its behaviour and evolution. Detailed information is presented on the species' origins, taxonomy, anatomy, appearance, moult, calls, distribution, conservation status, habitats, movements, breeding, diet and relationships, along with a chapter on its closest relative, the Red-throated Wryneck.

The text is richly illustrated throughout with high quality photographs as well as sound spectrograms. This all-encompassing and engaging account has been written for a wide audience, whether professional ornithologist, citizen scientist, amateur birder, woodpecker aficionado and simply someone who wishes to learn more about this curious and remarkable bird.

Customer Reviews (1)

  • Well illustrated and thorough
    By Keith 3 May 2022 Written for Paperback
    Until now, the only published work on The Wryneck Jynx torquilla has been Heinz Menzel’s 100-page monograph Der Wendehals, only available in German (Ziemsen, 1968), so this new book is a welcome arrival. It includes both a review of past literature and plenty of original research by the author himself. Indeed, nobody has done more to put woodpeckers on the map in recent years than Gerard Gorman, with six woodpecker books written prior to this – including monographs on the Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius and Green Woodpecker Picus viridis.

    The gradual disappearance of Wrynecks from England as a breeding species began over a century ago and was completed in 1985 when the last pair nested, while a few lingered in Scotland until the very early 2000s. It still remains unclear as to why the birds disappeared from here so long ago and in parallel have declined steeply in west and central Europe while remaining more common in the east and south. Gorman suggests that maybe the problem mostly lies in the wintering grounds in Africa. Alongside this other authors have suggested the decline is related to the general increase in wetter summers – although others predict that the warming climate might attract Wrynecks in the future. It’s a confusing picture. Gorman is good at explaining such hypotheses in an uncomplicated way, and the inclusion of around 120 good quality photographs makes it both an easy and enjoyable read.

    The introductory chapters introduce the species with a wealth of information on taxonomy, anatomy, morphology, plumage, identification, vocalisations, moult, ageing and sexing. There is also a section on the Red-throated Wryneck J. ruficollis which is resident in twenty sub-Saharan countries in Africa. Other chapters cover distribution, status, population estimates, migration and habitats. There is a lot of detail given on how populations are faring in each country, with a wealth of information from Europe, but many gaps in Asia where data on breeding and wintering numbers is sparse.

    A significant part of the latter pages focuses on breeding and conservation. Gorman has put out many nest boxes for Wrynecks, and clearly this is a good strategy in areas where natural tree cavities are few. The book is full of information, clearly subdivided into smaller topic sections to make it very accessible. There is also a fascinating chapter on folklore, mythology and symbolism. A lengthy bibliography of around 400 references shows that this species has attracted interest in both the breeding grounds in Europe and in migration. Gorman comments that many published studies are of birds using nest boxes, and that more research is needed from natural nest sites.

    I enjoyed reading this book. It reminded me that this most unlikely of woodpeckers still holds a fascination for most British birders. How far would you travel to see one? I bet it is further than you’d initially think!
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Gerard Gorman is a global authority on the Picidae. He has published numerous papers and six previous books on this fascinating family of birds, including Woodpeckers of the World: The Complete Guide (Helm 2014) and The Green Woodpecker (Picus Press 2020). For the past 30 years, he has travelled the world studying woodpeckers, believing that time in the field is the only way to really get to know them. In this book, the author augments many hours watching wrynecks with comprehensive literature research, creating what will surely be the definitive work on the species. Gorman lives in Budapest and is a founder member and current leader of the Hungarian Woodpecker Working Group.

By: Gerard Gorman(Author)
202 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations
Media reviews

"Few birds are as funny as their names, but the wrynecks come close. These captivatingly bizarre little woodpeckers now have the book they deserve, from the talented pen of one of the world's top picidologists. Gerard Gorman gives his readers the most detailed look ever into the wryneck's biology, along with an engaging, sometimes startling account of what these birds have meant to human culture over the millennia. Highly recommended if you love wrynecks – and even more highly if you don't yet."
– Rick Wright, author and ornithologist

"I find Gorman's book on wrynecks extremely attractive. It is comprehensive, good to read and well researched. Brilliant pictures of the birds and of morphological peculiarities allow unusual insights into the life of this unusual bird genus."
– Prof. Dr. Volker Zahner, author and zoologist

"The Wryneck is destined to become the definitive work on this weird and wonderful bird."
– Brian Jackman, journalist and author

"As the common name suggests the Wryneck is one of our weirdest birds. Gerard Gorman has combined his own knowledge of the birds with the extensive literature to produce this beautifully written and produced monograph. It really is a joy to read. To quote Gerard about his birds "time in the field is the only way to get to know them" – he certainly does know them."
– Ken and Linda Smith, Woodpecker Network

"For too long this little master of disguise has lived in the shadow of its woodpecker relatives. In this comprehensive single-species account it finally gets the star treatment it richly deserves from Europe's leading expert on the group. Gerard Gorman reveals the wryneck as one of the most fascinating, subtly beautiful and sought after of all birds."
– Mark Cocker, author and naturalist

"Gerard Gorman's book about wrynecks is a comprehensive, well-written and beautifully illustrated portrait of these birds. It is a must-read for all working on or interested in this special woodpecker species!"
– Dr. Gilberto Pasinelli, Swiss Ornithological Institute

"This is a fascinating and valuable study of a hugely charismatic species, by our most authoritative writer on woodpeckers and their relations. Fluent, comprehensive, accessible and beautifully illustrated, The Wryneck explores every aspect of the lives of these curious but little-understood birds, and the various ways – through culture, folklore and myth – in which they have found their way into our lives too."
– Richard Smyth, author of An Indifference of Birds and A Sweet, Wild Note

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