This crafty bird performs unusual snake-like movements and hisses loudly when spooked, inspiring their use in witchcraft to cast spells on wayward lovers. (It’s true.)
The Eurasian wryneck (Jynx torquilla) is a species of wryneck in the woodpecker family known for mimicking forest snakes when threatened by predators. The birds put on quite a bizarre performance, twisting their heads nearly 180 degrees and contorting their necks in a writhing serpent-like fashion. In some circumstances, the bird will play dead, closing its eyes and hanging limply.
This strange behavior led many to believe that the birds were cursed, bringing about back luck or even death. Because of this, they were historically used in witchcraft spells, coining the “jinx” term. Apparently, birds were tied to a piece of string and whirled around to cast the spell.
Despite their remarkable moves and reputation, these guys are not particularly noteworthy in appearance, with long, elongated bodies covered in mottled shades of brown and black.
Nesting in crevices or holes conveniently already constructed by other animals, wrynecks feast on ants and other insects they find on the ground or in decaying wood.
Wrynecks are migratory in nature, breeding in temperate Europe and Asia and wintering in tropical Africa and southern Asia. The birds tend to favor certain areas for their access to access to large numbers of insets, and will cultivate specific habitats year after year.
Thankfully, Eurasian wrynecks currently have steady populations so we can be mesmerized by their moves for years to come.