This Bird Will Put a Spell on You

A birder may have a target bird so elusive that the bird becomes a kind of "jinx bird." But there was a real bird by that name.

This story comes to you through a partnership between Audubon and BirdNote, a show that airs daily on public radio stations nationwide.

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Written by Bob Sundstrom
 
This is BirdNote!
 
There’s an element of luck in birdwatching, and sometimes that luck is mostly bad. A birder may find a particular bird so elusive, that after many unsuccessful attempts to see it, the bird becomes a kind of “jinx bird.”
 
Can a bird truly be equated with bad luck? Europeans centuries ago believed so, for the very word “jinx” and its connotation of a spell of bad luck comes directly from a bird’s name.
 
The bird once called the “jynx” -- j-y-n-x -- is the bird known today as the Eurasian wryneck. When a wryneck, a brown and gray-toned bird about the size of a small woodpecker, is threatened at its nest-hole, it twists its head sideways like a snake and hisses.
 
This anomalous behavior led to the wryneck being invoked in witchcraft to put a spell or a jinx on someone.
 
Today, the Eurasian wryneck seems harmless enough, although its scientific name, Jynx torquilla (tor-QUILL-uh), honors its neck-twisting, bewitching reputation.
 
Has a bird put a spell on you? Well let us know on our Facebook page! For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein. 

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of the Eurasian Jynx recorded by B. Veprintsev.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org  January 2014  Narrator: Michael Stein