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Friday, August 15, 2008


The expressions "to put a jynx on...", or"It's jynxed..." have their origin in ornithology. "Jynx" relates to a species of woodpecker called the Wryneck.

The Wryneck Jynx torquilla

These birds get their English name from their ability to turn their heads almost 180 degrees. When disturbed at the nest, they use this snake-like head twisting and hissing as a threat display. This odd behaviour, said to be a characteristic of the Devil, led to their use in witchcraft. To adorn someone with a dead Wryneck, or feathers from one, was supposed to represent a curse.

The Wryneck is able to rotate its head through 180, said to be devilish

The Latin name for the Wryneck is Jynx torquilla, hence "to put a jinx on someone". The expression is retained in common usage in superstition and usually relates to no more than a fear of bad luck.

The snake-like head of the Wryneck used as a threat display when the nest is approached
Photo credits


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow! it sure does have a very long neck.

8:58 pm  
Blogger Jenny Holden said...

One of the most stunning birds I have ever had the pleasure of ringing... in Ukraine, I've never even seen one over here! Hope you're well Jim.

9:04 pm  
Blogger simon said...

that is a fantastic post mate- I am always learning something!!

12:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i sure do love you maalie.

2:57 pm  
Blogger Shrinky said...

wow, that was absolutely fascinatng, I had no idea. This bird does have a certain snake-like appearance to it's head, doesn't it?

Hope the rain is less abundant for you than it is for us over here (sigh). Ah well, I'm escaping to Greece on Wednesday! Smile.

6:26 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Hey Maalie, that is so interesting. I learn so much by reading your posts. I missed seeing a photo of your breakfast though.

9:44 am  
Blogger simon said...

I wish I had a snake like appearance....

7:45 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

You do at times, Simon!

1:06 pm  
Blogger Magdalene said...

How interesting! I never knew that. All this knowledge I've been missing by staying away so long.

6:02 pm  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Wow, Maalie. Fascinating birds. Never knew all, or really any of that.

I probably thought of you when Deb and I went to Frederik Meijer Gardens here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That is, when we went through the wetlands there. Quite interesting. I did put six pictures up of it, from around picture 6-11 this past Saturday on my blog. Was fascinating. Bad to hear that we're losing them, perhaps at an alarming rate from what I think I may remember.

But at Meijer Gardens, I thought what a place to be for birds. I didn't get one picture of a bird though, I'm sorry to say. Except for the herons or whatever they were in the distance in a wetland photo.

Again though, thanks for this good sharing with us on the Wryneck!

12:56 am  
Blogger simon said...


6:38 am  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

What an interesting story. Nature is truly amazing.

1:15 pm  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

they're kind of pretty, but I must admit that the turn of the head 180 is very creepy, like something out of a Stephen King book!

5:35 am  
Anonymous alcessa said...

Thank you, that was very interesting to learn! Interestingly, German language also uses its Wryneck for figurative purposes: Wendehals thus describes persons who'll change their views for "good" reasons, I think the nearest English equivalent is Turncoat.

I also hope to see A Wendehals one day, the bird that is. Bird-watching can be quite a pleasure!

7:34 pm  

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