There are two species in the Old World woodpecker genus that sounds like birds that birders would never be able to see. They are literal jinx birds in that their genus name is “Jynx.” Jynx torquilla, the Eurasian Wryneck, and Jynx ruficollis, the Red-throated Wryneck, are both atypical woodpeckers in that they lack the stiff tail for perching on tree trunks and the strong bill that would let them get at prey in hard wood. Instead they forage on the ground, like flickers, for ants, or focus on rotted wood for ants and other insects. Neither even makes their own nesting cavities; they use the abandoned holes of other woodpeckers.

Sadly, I have never seen a Red-throated Wryneck, which is only to be expected for a bird found only in sub-Saharan Africa, considering that I have not yet set foot on that continent. Until a month ago I had never seen the Eurasian Wryneck either, but the trip to Hungary took care of that gap on the life list easily.

Eurasian Wrynecks are found breeding across the temperate zones of Europe and Asia. They migrate to warmer climes in Africa and south Asia to winter. BirdLife International considers them a Species of Least Concern because of its extremely large range and population, though it does seem to be in at least slight decline.

Eurasian Wrynecks are amazingly well camouflaged and can seem to disappear when they freeze on some dead wood. I considered myself extremely fortunate that there was a pair apparently nesting just down the street from the Nomad Hotel in Hungary’s Bükk Hills. Though we never actually found the nest hole we were pretty sure it was on the back side of a particular tree, and we learned pretty well where to watch for the bird to go, as well as its favorite perch, the dead stub that you see it perched on in the best of the pictures in this post.

I certainly appreciated the opportunity to get to know a wryneck and just hope that it didn’t jinx me – though, considering how few new year birds I have managed to track down since I returned to New York I am beginning to wonder if it did!

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My week-long trip to Hungary was a familiarity trip organized by the wonderful folks at Swarovski Optik to introduce their new line of superior spotting scopes, the ATX and the STX modular telescopes, through which all of the photographs in this post were digiscoped. We visited Hortobágy National Park, the Bükk Hills and places in between. Many thanks to Swarovski Optik for inviting me along and letting me experience both some awesome new optics and the natural wonders of the wonderful country of Hungary.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.