Wryneck (Eurasian Wryneck)
Distribution Britain 6 (-87.5%) Ireland 0
Numbers breeding: Britain 5 RBBP Ireland 0
European status: 380,000 (0% in Britain and Ireland)
British population trend: no real population!
It is difficult for young birdwatchers to realise that this species was so common, less than 100 years ago, that it was known as the Cuckoo's mate. The loud ringing song was as familiar as that of the Cuckoo and both migrants arrived at roughly the same time. It was actually the commonest woodpecker in many areas! But the writing was on the wall by 1900 as it was no longer breeding in Northern England or in North Wales. The decline accelerated and by 1930 it was very scarce in the Welsh borders and over much of the Midlands. By 1950 there were birds still in Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent and along the Thames Valley but by 1965 the population was down to 25-30 pairs. From 1951 there had been calling birds in Scotland every few years and in 1969 three pairs were proved to breed on Speyside (clearly from the Scandinavian breeding population). Breeding is now sporadic with the average maximum estimate (RBBP) about five pairs over the last ten years and only two proved in the five years 1993-97 the latest a Scottish one in 1997. The reasons are clearly related to the species' withdrawal from the north of its range in Western Europe, but a good case has also been made for it to be related to the loss of old pasture with the ants that the bird relies on for food. These birds might have gone for ever.
UKBAP Scottish Natural Heritage RSPB
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead