Jacanidae – Jacanas

Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana ©James Lowen Website

The Jacanidae or jacanas (sometimes referred to as Jesus birds or lily trotters) are a family of tropical waders. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone.

Eight species of jacana are known from six genera. They are identifiable by their huge feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in the shallow lakes that are their preferred habitat. They have sharp bills and rounded wings, and many species also have wattles on their foreheads.

There is some sexual dimorphism, female jacanas are larger than the males. The latter, as in some other wader families like the phalaropes, take responsibility for incubation, and some species (notably the Northern Jacana) are polyandrous. However, adults of both sexes look identical, as with most shorebirds. They construct relatively flimsy nests on floating vegetation, and lay eggs with dark irregular lines on their shells, providing camouflage amongst water weeds.

Their diet consists of insects and other invertebrates picked from the floating vegetation or the water’s surface. Most species are sedentary, but the Pheasant-tailed Jacana migrates from the north of its range into peninsular India and southeast Asia.

According to most sources there are just 8 species in this family, which are:

Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis

African Jacana Actophilornis africanus
Madagascar Jacana Actophilornis albinucha

Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus

Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus

Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa
Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana

Species Links
  • African Jacana Actophilornis africanus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • African Jacana Actophilornis africanus

    Species Account
    The African jacana (Actophilornis africanus) is a wader in the family Jacanidae, identifiable by long toes and long claws that enable them to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes, their preferred habitat.
  • African Jacana Actophilornis africanus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Parra africana J. F. Gmelin, 1789, Ethiopia. Closely related to A. albinucha. Monotypic.
  • African Jacana Actophilornis africanus

    IUCN Species Status
  • African Jacana Actophilornis africanus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Parra indica Latham, 1790, India. Monotypic.
  • Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus

    Species Account
    The bronze-winged jacana (Metopidius indicus) is a jacana. It is the only member of the genus Metopidius.
  • Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea

    Species Account
    The comb-crested jacana (Irediparra gallinacea), also known as the lotusbird or lilytrotter, is the only species of jacana in the genus Irediparra. Like other jacana species, it is adapted to the floating vegetation of tropical freshwater wetlands.
  • Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Parra gallinacea Temminck, 1828, Menado, Sulawesi. Three subspecies currently recognized.
  • Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis

    IBC Species Account
    Mali to Sudan and Ethiopia, then S through Uganda and Kenya to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and E South Africa, extending W to E Angola and E Namibia…
  • Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Parra capensis A. Smith, 1839, Algoa Bay, South Africa. Species considered possibly to represent a neotenic form of Actophilornis africanus. Monotypic.
  • Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis

    IUCN Species Status
  • Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis

    Species Account
    It is found in Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.[1] Its primary habitats are coastal and inland wetlands and waterways
  • Madagascar Jacana Actophilornis albinucha

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Madagascar Jacana Actophilornis albinucha

    Species Account
    The Madagascan jacana (Actophilornis albinucha) is a species of bird in the Jacanidae family. It is endemic to Madagascar.
  • Madagascar Jacana Actophilornis albinucha

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Parra albinuca [sic] I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1832, Madagascar. Species name originally spelt albinuca, but emended on basis of internal evidence. Closely related to A. africanus. Monotypic.
  • Madagascar Jacana Actophilornis albinucha

    IUCN Species Status
  • Madagascar Jacana Actophilornis albinucha

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Fulica spinosa Linnaeus, 1758, South America; error = western Panama. Three subspecies tentatively recognized.
  • Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa

    IUCN Species Status
  • Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa

    Species Account
    The northern jacana or northern jaçana (Jacana spinosa) is a wader which is a resident breeder from coastal Mexico to western Panama, and on Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola. It sometimes breeds in Texas, United States.
  • Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa

    Cornell Species Account
    It is a bird of marshes. Their toes and nails are adapted for walking on floating vegetation.
  • Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus

    Species Account
    The pheasant-tailed jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) is a jacana in the monotypic genus Hydrophasianus. Jacanas are a group of waders in the family Jacanidae that are identifiable by their wide feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes, their preferred habitat.
  • Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Tringa Chirurgus Scopoli, 1786, Luzon, Philippines.Monotypic
  • Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana

    HBW Species Account
  • Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana

    IUCN Species Status
  • Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana

    Species Account
    The wattled jacana (Jacana jacana) is a wader which is a resident breeder from western Panama and Trinidad south through most of South America east of the Andes.
  • Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana

    Cornell Species Account
    The Wattled Jacana is distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics of South America and is common in just about any permanent and seasonally flooded freshwater wetlands.
Useful Reading
  • Shorebirds

    An Identification Guide to the Waders of the World by Pter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater - Helm 1986 ISBN: 0713635096 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Shorebirds of North America - The Photographic guide

    by Dennis Paulson Christopher Helm 2005. Price ?24.99p ISBN: 071367377X Buy this book from NHBS.com

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