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16 - 18cm. An unusual, distinctive woodpecker.
 Similar species
Rufous-necked Wryneck has rufous on throat and breast and has streaked (not barred) flanks.
Breeds widely across Europe from northern Iberia and western France east to the Urals, Caspian and north Caucasus and across temperate Asia to China and northern Japan. In the north virtually absent from British Isles but breeds over most of Scandinavia except the higher mountains and the far north, and across Russia south of 650N. Breeds south to the northern coast of the Mediterranean from north-east Spain to northern Greece and on Mallorca, Ibiza, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. Also breeds sparingly in southern Portugal and in north Algeria.
Mainly a summer visitor but in the far south of range may be partially migratory or resident. Main autumn passage period is August-October, the return in April-May. Passage birds occur throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and southern Asia. Winters in tropical Africa, India, South-East Asia, southern China and southern Japan.
Formerly a regular and fairly widespread breeder in Britain, now mainly a scarce passage migrant with 200-400 birds per year, mainly in August-October, with occasional summering birds and sporadic breeding records. Similar declines have been seen elsewhere in Europe, particularly in northern France and in North Sea countries.
Accidental vagrant to Alaska (two records).
There are 4 subspecies:
In addition 3 further subspecies sarudnyi, chinensis and japonica are recognised by some authorities
Open woodland, deciduous or mixed, clearings and edges of forest, orchards, parks and large gardens. Nest in a tree-hole. Occurs in a range of more open habitats on passage including cultivated areas, close-cropped grassland, sand-dunes and shingle beaches.
Feeds mostly on ants, larvae and pupae, and other insects.
Breeding season from May to June, in south of range a second clutch is sometimes laid in June or July.
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