The Wryneck - Pelagic Publishing

The Wryneck

Biology, Behaviour, Conservation and Symbolism of Jynx torquilla

  • The first ever detailed monograph on Jynx torquilla in English.
  • Includes a wealth of original research as well as a comprehensive literature review.
  • Illustrated throughout with excellent photographs and original sound spectrograms.
    We currently have 958 in stock.

    • The Wryneck is destined to become the definitive work on this weird and wonderful bird.
      —Brian Jackman, journalist and author


    This book details the natural history and cultural symbolism of a most unusual woodpecker – a species that neither excavates nest holes in trees, nor bores into wood to find insect prey. The elusive Wryneck is best renowned for performing a twisting, writhing head and neck display when threatened, but this ground-breaking study reveals many more secrets of its behaviour and evolution. Detailed information is presented on the species' origins, taxonomy, anatomy, appearance, moult, calls, distribution, conservation status, habitats, movements, breeding, diet and relationships, along with a chapter on its closest relative, the Red-throated Wryneck.

    The text is richly illustrated throughout with high quality photographs as well as sound spectrograms. This all-encompassing and engaging account has been written for a wide audience, whether professional ornithologist, citizen scientist, amateur birder, woodpecker aficionado and simply someone who wishes to learn more about this curious and remarkable bird.

    DOI: 10.53061/VHKC7954

    Table of Contents

    About the author

    1. Origins and Taxonomy
    2. Anatomy and Morphology
    3. Description and Identification
    4. Moult, Ageing and Sexing
    5. The Red-throated Wryneck
    6. Communication
    7. Distribution, Trends and Status
    8. Habitats
    9. Challenges and Conservation
    10. Behaviour
    11. Flight, Movements and Migration
    12. Breeding
    13. Cavities
    14. Foraging and Food
    15. Relationships
    16. Folklore, Mythology and Symbolism



    • Few birds are as funny as their names, but the wrynecks come close. These captivatingly bizarre little woodpeckers now have the book they deserve, from the talented pen of one of the world’s top picidologists. Gerard Gorman gives his readers the most detailed look ever into the wryneck’s biology, along with an engaging, sometimes startling account of what these birds have meant to human culture over the millennia. Highly recommended if you love wrynecks—and even more highly if you don’t yet.
      —Rick Wright, author and ornithologist
    • I find Gorman's book on wrynecks extremely attractive. It is comprehensive, good to read and well researched. Brilliant pictures of the birds and of morphological peculiarities allow unusual insights into the life of this unusual bird genus.
      —Prof. Dr. Volker Zahner, author and zoologist
    • The Wryneck is destined to become the definitive work on this weird and wonderful bird.
      —Brian Jackman, journalist and author
    • As the common name suggests the Wryneck is one of our weirdest birds. Gerard Gorman has combined his own knowledge of the birds with the extensive literature to produce this beautifully written and produced monograph. It really is a joy to read. To quote Gerard about his birds “time in the field is the only way to get to know them” – he certainly does know them.
      —Ken and Linda Smith, Woodpecker Network
    • For too long this little master of disguise has lived in the shadow of its woodpecker relatives. In this comprehensive single-species account it finally gets the star treatment it richly deserves from Europe’s leading expert on the group. Gerard Gorman reveals the wryneck as one of the most fascinating, subtly beautiful and sought after of all birds.
      —Mark Cocker, author and naturalist
    • Gerard Gorman’s book about wrynecks is a comprehensive, well-written and beautifully illustrated portrait of these birds. It is a must-read for all working on or interested in this special woodpecker species!
      —Dr. Gilberto Pasinelli, Swiss Ornithological Institute
    • This is a fascinating and valuable study of a hugely charismatic species, by our most authoritative writer on woodpeckers and their relations. Fluent, comprehensive, accessible and beautifully illustrated, The Wryneck explores every aspect of the lives of these curious but little-understood birds, and the various ways - through culture, folklore and myth - in which they have found their way into our lives too.
      —Richard Smyth, author of An Indifference of Birds and A Sweet, Wild Note
    • Thoroughly researched and illustrated with many superb photographs, paintings and figures...Undoubtedly this comprehensive book will be the standard reference for birders, scientists, citizen scientists and naturalists who want to learn about the wryneck.
      — Daniel Alder, Independent Ecologist and Researcher
    • The Wryneck is a thoroughly researched, comprehensive, well-written and beautifully illustrated portrait of these enigmatic birds.
      —Linda Smith, British Trust for Ornithology
    • A comprehensive study on the natural history and cultural symbolism of an unusual woodpecker. This well illustrated monograph is a MUST have for anyone with an interest in the Wryneck!
      —Ian Paulsen, The Birdbooker Report
    • Entertaining and authoritative…The species' behaviour, its diet, its worldwide distribution, its favoured habitats and its place in folklore and mythology are all covered in absorbing detail.
      —Jim Wright, The Heron – Lincolnshire Bird Club newsletter
    • This is a book that tells the story of an amazing species that used to be a common British breeding bird - the poet John Clare wrote a poem about them having watched them breeding in Cambridgeshire in 1835, for example. The Wryneck is now a passage migrant in Britain, especially in the autumn. Gerard Gorman (Mr Woodpecker!) has a wide experience of this species (even putting up nestboxes for them in his area of Hungary), and here he gives them the same close attention he did the woodpeckers of the world in a previous book. I found it very useful, as I have actually found the bird in spring below my house, and hope for its return as a British breeding species in future years.
      —John Miles, Chick Books
    • ...thoroughly recommended as an enjoyable way to increase your understanding of what is an iconic bird.
      —Ed Stubbs,
    • For woodpecker enthusiasts and anyone interested in how birds exploit distinctive ecological niches, as well as for birders who have or hope to see wrynecks when in the Old World, this finely illustrated book is a valuable resource.
      —Roger F. Pasquier, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology
    • The text tries to answer not only the questions introduced by the words when, where and how, but also tries to get to the bottom of the most interesting and fundamental moments that we usually prefix with why. So, if you have any questions about the wryneck... browse through this publication. I believe that you will be interested and that you will learn something new.
      —Petr Procházka, Sylvia: Journal of Ornithology
    • Gorman skilfully writes a book based on an extensive scientific bibliography and enriches it with personal observations coming from his experience and long time spent observing the species in the field. As a result of this combination, the book is enjoyable to read and understandable by a very wide audience.
      —Letizia Campioni, Avocetta Journal of Ornithology

    About the Author

    Gerard Gorman is a global authority on the Picidae. He has published numerous papers and six previous books on this fascinating family of birds, including Woodpeckers of the World: The Complete Guide (Helm 2014), The Wryneck (Pelagic Publishing 2022) and The Green Woodpecker (Pelagic Publishing 2023). For the past 30 years he has travelled the world studying woodpeckers, believing that time in the field is the only way to really get to know them. In his recent books, the author augments many hours watching wrynecks and green woodpeckers with comprehensive literature research, creating what will surely be the definitive works on the two species. Gorman lives in Budapest and is a founder member and current leader of the Hungarian Woodpecker Group.

    Bibliographic Information

    • 216 pages
    • 128 col illus, 5 spectrograms, 2 maps
    • BISAC SCI070040, NAT043000, SCI087000