Wrynecks breed in northwest Africa, much of Europe (except the far north, the highest mountains and the extreme southeast), Siberia, central China and northern Japan. They are mostly migratory, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa north of the equator and in southern India.
    In Great Britain, they were apparently widespread nesters at the end of the 18th century as far north as northern England, but a hundred years later their range had contracted to south of the Humber and parts of Wales. The decline continued through the first two-thirds of the 20th century The 1968-72 Breeding Atlas showed that by then breeding Wrynecks were restricted in England to a scattering between Norfolk and Hampshire. By the time of the 1988-91 Breeding Atlas even these sites had been abandoned and the species is now only seen as passage migrants from continental Europe, mostly along the east and south coasts in autumn.
    In Wiltshire by the mid 19th centuryWrynecks were mostly reduced to scarce passage migrants and very rare breeders, a situation that continued until the mid 20th century. The last known nest was found in an apple tree in West Dean in July 1950. Between then and the end of the century, passage migrants were recorded, mostly in autumn, in only 27 out of the 50 years, with an average of just under two individuals in each of those 27 years.In the years since the turn of the century however frequency and numbers have increased: between 2000 and 2016 there were only two years when there were no records at all. The average number of individuals in the 15 years when they were seen was 3.46.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.