Jynx ruficollis (Red-throated wryneck) 

Draaihals [Afrikaans]; Kolutsoku [South Sotho]; Afrikaanse draaihals rufous-necked [Dutch]; Torcol gorge rousse [French]; Braunkehl-wendehals, Rotkehl-wendehals [German]; Torcicolo-de-garganta-castanha [Portuguese]

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Jynx ruficollis (Red-throated wryneck)  Jynx ruficollis (Red-throated wryneck)

Red-throated wryneck. [photo Hugh Chittenden ]

Red-throated wryneck with ant workers and brood, Standerton, Mpumalanga, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ]

The Red-throated wryneck has populations scattered across sub-Saharan Africa, including one confined to South Africa and Swaziland. It is highly specialized, living only in grassland and feeding exclusively on ants and termites. It usually nests in tree cavities made by other birds, but it also can use natural tree holes and nest boxes. It lays 16, usually 3-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 13 days. The chicks are cared for by both parents, staying in the nest for about 25-26 days. The juveniles become independent soon after fledging.

Distribution and habitat

It has populations scattered across sub-Saharan Africa, including one confined to South Africa and Swaziland. Within southern Africa it occurs from the Limpopo Province to the Eastern Cape, generally preferring grassland with sparse trees.

Distribution of red-throated wryneck in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Lesser honeyguide.

Food 

Highly specialized, as it feeds exclusively on ants and termites. It often excavates ant nests, licking them up with its sticky tongue. The following insects have been recorded in its diet:

  • Insects
    • ants, their eggs and pupae (Formicidae)
      • Pheidole megacephala
      • Crematogaster castanea
      • Lepisiota capensis
      • Acantholepis capensis
      • Tetramorium setulferum
    • termites

Breeding

  • It usually nests in tree cavities made by other bird species, especially woodpeckers and barbets (incl. Lybius torquatus (Black-collared barbet) and Trachyphonus vaillantii (Crested barbet). It also nests in natural tree cavities, nest boxes and hollow metal fence posts.
Jynx ruficollis (Red-throated wryneck) Jynx ruficollis (Red-throated wryneck)
Red-throated wryneck at its nest hollow with pupae, Standerton, Mpumalanga, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ] Red-throated wryneck chick, Standerton, Mpumalanga, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ]
  • Egg-laying season is from August-February, peaking in October.
  • It lays 1-6, usually 3-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 13 days.
  • The chicks are cared for by both parents, staying in the nest for about 25-26 days. If threatened, an older chick will perform a threat display similar to a striking snake, extending its neck forward then rapidly recoiling. The juveniles become independent soon after fledging.

Threats

Not threatened.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 
 

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