THE WRY­NECK IN EUROPE

Bird Watching (UK) - - Species Wryneck -

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.

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