Wryneck in Brandenburg/ Germany

A game protection fence separates the meadow from a growth area for the Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). High rhythmic, choppy sounds and a bird flying into a Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus), rests a few seconds suggest a nest. The enthusiasm is great when the view through the binoculars shows a brown-grey bird with a striking black stripe on the head and back. That’s a Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla). I am sure: the rhythmic sounds are certainly the nestlings in the brood cave. Only the trunk of a dry European Larch (Larix decidua) in the middle of the fenced-off young growth area is actually suitable for a cave. The tree in question has 3 beautiful, well-shaped woodpecker holes. They probably all come from the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), which is quite common in Brandenburg pine forests. The upper cave still seems to be brand new, the middle one is older and the lower one, I do not know.

The next morning I must sit nearby for a photo shooting. I choose the car to create as little human silhouette as possible. When I arrive around 6:00 a.m., there is of course no sign of the wryneck. The nestlings’ rhythmic cries for begging cannot be heard either. Should the boys have flown out at night or earlier in the morning? Then all the trouble would have been in vain. I give myself half an hour. Suddenly there is a wryneck at the bottom hole; the youngs’ begging calls can now be heard as well. But this happens so quickly that I can’t get the camera, a Canon EOS 1DX Mark III on the Canon EF 600mm f4 L IS II USM into position.

A little later, one of the nestlings curiously sticks his head out of the brood cavity. At first only hesitantly, then the whole head is stretched out of the cave. Now the morning sun has rosen so far that the cave is perfectly illuminated. The young bird is in terms of color and structure an reminiscent of an adult bird. It takes a while until one of the parents comes for the second time. First the adult bird waits on a larch branch approx. 5 meters away. After a while it flies on a branch closer to the cave, then it sits crosswise on a branch in full beauty. The adult bird then flies to the hole of the cave from below. It hangs under the cave but quickly climbs to the brood cave to feed the young. Everything is very nice to see in the photo gallery of the Wryneck. The feeding itself is characterized by rather a less hectic pace. This is strikingly different from the behaviour of the Great Spotted Woodpecker. Another difference that is striking is the low intensity or frequency of the begging calls. While the young Great Spotted Woodpeckers can no longer stop begging at a certain age, the Wrynecks are visibly reserved and only appear to call when a parent is nearby. Given the height of the brood cave – approx. 1 meter above the ground – voice retention is an understandable strategy so as not to attract predators.

When the Wryneck begins with its usually only one brood in the year, many caves are already occupied. However, that hardly bothers the Wryneck. In this case, it makes short work of it and simply throws disturbing nests from other birds, including eggs and young, out of the cave. It does not stay long with nest building and does not enter any nesting material either. The female simply lays the seven to ten white eggs on the bare floor of the cave, on mulm or on found nesting material. As the photos show, the Wryneck feeds mainly on ants. One of the ants, a big one, can even be seen with only one leg pinched on the beak. It is mostly meadow ants that are captured. They lay their nests in warm, sunny and above all sandy soils. Agriculture in southern Brandenburg is also not extensive. Nevertheless, despite all the “cleaning up” of nature, there are still enough places close to nature that provide the food supply for the wryneck. If there is too little food, the bird would not be able to raise its young.

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