Topic : Land Birds
Article 8 07 December 2006
Red-throated Wryneck - ant-eating specialist
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.