wryneck, common name for a primitive, unspecialized bird of the genus Jynx. The name is said to derive from their habit of twisting their necks when disturbed. Unlike other members of the family Picidae, which includes the woodpeckers and piculets, wrynecks neither climb nor drill, but rather perch horizontally and feed aground. Their bills are weaker and more rounded than those of true woodpeckers, and their long tongues are smooth, lacking the barbs and bristles of the other members of the group. They are thus thought to be ancestral to the more specialized members of the family. Two species of wrynecks are recognized: the migratory Eurasian wryneck (J. torquilla), and the tropical African wryneck (J. ruficollis). Both are solitary birds with soft, cryptically mottled plumage of grays, blacks, and browns. They feed on a number of insects but especially prefer ants. Like the other members of the family, they nest in unlined tree holes, where they lay their glossy, pure white eggs. The young are blind and featherless at birth. Wrynecks are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Piciformes, family Picidae.
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