THE WRYNECK IN EUROPE
Across Europe today, Wrynecks, like Corn Crakes, have declined in disparate regions. Their overall distribution shows a bias that can be clearly linked to subsistence agriculture and fruit-growing, but not overall climatic or geographical patterns. In France, for example, Atlas Nicheurs reveals that traditional fruit-growing regions such as the Loire Valley and the Ile d’oleron still retain this species, as does a large band of the eastern counties, where vineyards predominate. In Spain, the species still survives in the orange groves of Extremedura and thrives on Mallorca. In Switzerland, tracts of the Rhone Valley, containing abundant pear-orchards, have proven optimal habitat for the species. Like other low-intensity grassland users, such as Corn Crakes, Wryneck populations then pick up in the east, in subsidence farmland from eastern Poland, Belarus, Latvia and Lithuania eastwards into Russia. Where ancient natural pastures flourish on a large scale – in southern Finland or the Bialowieza Forest, for example – Wrynecks still thrive in pre-agricultural habitats. There is no mystical factor dictating Wryneck distribution. Cavities. Abundant ant nests. Landscapes large enough for these resources to sustain migrant populations. It may be many years before we combine the vision and resources to rebuild savannah in Britain, and use natal imprinting to bring Wrynecks back to our shores. But, in the meantime, we can’t allow the Wryneck’s cryptic plumage to hide the reasons for its extinction. To bring it back, we must accept why the Wryneck left us to begin with. Then, in decades to come, we can rebuild its grasslands and ant-hills, and give the Cuckoo’s mate a home once more.