Wattled Jacana

By Marla Lise

Scientific Name: Jacana jacana

The Wattled Jacana is found around western Panama, Trinidad, and throughout most of South America to the east of the Andes. They are the only Jacana species found in South America, although other Jacana species are found through out the tropical belt.

Jacanas could star in the next ‘Bigfoot’ movie. They have long legs and huge feet relative to their body size, which help them to walk in the shallow ponds and through vegetation. These big feet also help them to be very good swimmers and divers. They have a red head and a red wattle below their chin but the rest of their feathers are black with yellow markings on their wings. These noisy birds have a long claw on the end of their wings, which are used in fight.

Wattled Jacana. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
These birds lay up to four eggs in their nests, which float on water. The male and females both take turns in incubating the eggs and protecting the nests. The females are actually larger than the males, but the males do most of the work in protecting and building the nest and eggs. Once the chicks are born, they are already independent enough to take care of themselves.

The Wattled Jacana is not listed as a threatened species, although the survival rate for the Jacana chicks is only about 50 percent.


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