Saturday, May 21, 2011

We recently received a fantastic letter from a viewer of this blog who lives in Aberdaron, a small village just over the treacherous Bardsey Sound. They had popped out of their garden studio and when they returned a Wryneck was flapping at the inside window. They rescued the bird but as they were returning it to the outdoors it made some bizarre head contortions which caused them to slacken their grip and the bird escaped off into the garden. What a fantastic experience. Wrynecks are a distinctive group of cryptically patterned Woodpeckers which lack the stiff tails that their cousins use when climbing trees.

A Wryneck caught on Bardsey a couple of years ago. The amazing head contortions are usually displayed when a bird is disturbed at the nest and act as a threat display. It would seem that the display also works well if the adult bird feels threatened, perhaps startling predators enough to facilitate escape. It has been suggested that this bizarre behaviour led to their use in witchcraft and that the name of their genus, Jynx, and that the act of putting a 'jinx' on someone, may be related. (c) Richard Brown

The Aberdaron record on the 19th of April is the only report from Gwynedd in 2011 and is one of only two Welsh records this year, the other being on Skomer on the 10th of April. 

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