- Article and news on the Web

Topic : Land Birds

Article 8 bullet 07 December 2006

Red-throated Wryneck - ant-eating specialist

by Hugh Chittenden

Red-throated Wryneck Jynx ruficollis is an ant-eating specialist with adaptations to assist in the mopping up of large numbers of Hymenoptera (Ant) prey.

Red-Throated Wryneck

This bird’s long tongue is capable of extending more than 60 mm past the tip of the bill and covered with a sticky mucus secretion from the salivary glands. This weapon is flicked out at amazing speed to gather beakfuls of ants for delivery to hungry chicks.

Long Sticky tongue Red-Throated Wryneck

100's per beakful

Capable of holding hundreds of ants or ant larvae in each beakful, it is impossible for these birds to control all subsequent movement of prey, resulting in ants crawling around the birds beak and head when delivering food to the chicks.

Red-Throated Wryneck

Woodpecker affiliations

With its woodpecker-like bill and zygodactylous toe formation, it is not surprising to find this bird placed in the family Picidae (Woodpeckers and Wrynecks). However it differs by having softer plumage, especially tail which lacks the stiff shafts of its woodpecker relatives.

Looking out of a nest hole

Its soft cryptically coloured plumage and habit of not calling much during the winter months, leads birders to think that wrynecks are migratory. They are however generally sedentary and remain in their territories year round.



Site Search