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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 11, 2021

Did You Know? 17 Incredible African Jacana Facts!

Discover fascinating African jacana facts about its physical description, breeding, diet, flight, nests, chicks, and more!

The African jacana (Actophilornis africanus), also known as the lily-walker or the Jesus bird, is a magnificent shorebird/wader that is indigenous to Africa. It can move through this vegetation due to its long toes. The female jacanas of this species are larger than the male jacanas. The plumage of the male jacana and female jacana is quite similar. The adult of this species has mesmerizing rufous cinnamon to rich chestnut upper parts, with darker secondaries and rump. The underparts of this bird are maroon-chestnut in color along with a white chin and throat. The upper breast is golden yellow. It also possesses a pale-blue bill that fades to gray-blue. The crown of this gorgeous bird is black and the sides of its head are white. It has small dark-brown-colored eyes. It has long toes and legs that are olive-brown to gray-blue in color.

This bird dwells in freshwater wetlands that have floating vegetation like lily pads and various other plants in marshes and swamps. It takes shelter in tall aquatic vegetation where it spends its life mostly. Interestingly, the mating system of this species of jacanas is reversed. The male has been observed to carry out the nesting chores, like build nests, care for and raise the chicks. The courtship display is also quite captivating, with these jacanas walking around each other with their head bent low to boast their frontal shield. The chicks as well as the eggs of these jacanas become are consumed by aquatic snakes. Keep reading to learn more facts about its physical description, breeding, diet, flight, nests, chicks, and more!

If you enjoy reading our fun African jacana facts, you must check out our spoonbill interesting facts and black-winged stilt facts for kids!

African Jacana Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an African jacana?

The African jacana is a type of shorebird/wader that can be easily identified due to the characteristic features of its body, such as its long toes and claws. The female jacanas of this species are larger in size, as compared to the males. It is a beautiful bird that is indigenous to Africa. This species of jacanas consumes insects, larvae, worms, snails, mollusks, crustaceans, spiders, and seeds. It can search for food on the surface as well as lily pads.

What class of animal does an African jacana belong to?

The African jacana, like all other species of jacanas, belongs to the class of Aves.

How many African jacanas are there in the world?

The population of these jacanas is stable. These birds are quite common throughout their range. These birds have a denser population in the eastern region of South Africa as compared to other parts of their range. The population trend is also stable. However, they are threatened by the drainage of wetlands, habitat loss, overgrazing, and flooding. The chicks and eggs of these jacanas are consumed by aquatic snakes. Water lilies, which form a major part of their habitat, also get destroyed by nutria (Myocastor coypus).

Where does an African jacana live?

These birds occur in the tropical region of southern and central Africa. They are known to undergo mating rituals in wetlands across sub-Saharan Africa. These birds have a denser population in the eastern region of South Africa as compared to other parts of their range. They are endemic to Africa.

What is an African jacana's habitat?

These beautiful birds occur frequently in freshwater wetlands that possess floating vegetation such as lily pads and various other plants in marshes and swamps. It can be seen along slow-flowing lakes and rivers. It takes shelter in tall aquatic vegetation where it spends its life mostly. The nest of these jacanas can be seen over nest floating islands.

Who do African jacanas live with?

African jacanas are quite gregarious and have been observed to form big flocks when it isn't their breeding season. They can be seen in pairs mainly when it's their breeding season.

How long does an African jacana live?

The lifespan of this species hasn't been evaluated yet. However, we do know that the jacanas live for 6.5 years on average which is the same as that of the quail!

How do they reproduce?

These birds breed all year round. The mating system of this species is reversed, meaning, that the male constructs the nest, takes care of young, and raises them. The nest is usually constructed on floating islands. Their nest is a pad of marshy vegetation that is submerged partially. The courtship display is also quite captivating, with these jacanas walking around each other with their head bent low to boast their frontal shield.

The typical clutch comprises four eggs that are laid either on the floating vegetation or in the nest. These eggs are pale-brown in color and have black marks all over them that camouflage them excellently. This clutch is incubated by the male jacana for 20-26 days. When it's warm during the day, it shades the eggs. The male may shift the eggs to another nest, for which the eggs are carried under its specially adapted wings. After the hatching of chicks, their eggshells are discarded from the nest. These jacana chicks are precocial. They have white underparts and have pale and dark brown stripes on top. The chicks aren't provided food by the male but are accompanied by him when they go foraging themselves. The young resides with the male jacana for 40-70 days. They attain adult feathers at the age of one year.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of these birds is Least Concern as per the IUCN's Red List.

African Jacana Fun Facts

What do African jacanas look like?

The female jacanas of this species are larger than the male jacanas. The plumage of the male jacana and female jacana is quite similar. The adult of this species has mesmerizing rufous cinnamon to rich chestnut upper parts, with darker secondaries and rump. Its primaries are black in color. The upper wing has a glossy luster. It has a white foredeck and a black hindneck. Its tail is quite short. The underparts of this bird are maroon-chestnut in color along with a white chin and throat. The upper breast is golden yellow. It also possesses a pale-blue bill that fades to gray-blue. The crown of this gorgeous bird is black and the sides of its head are white. This bird has small dark-brown-colored eyes. It has long toes and legs that are olive-brownish to gray-blue in color. The juveniles of this bird have a blackish-brown hindneck and crown. The frontal shield is slightly developed or absent. The upper parts of juveniles are pale-brown in color whereas the underparts are white.

The African jacana eggs are pale-brown in color and have black marks all over them!

How cute are they?

These birds are very cute. Their plumage possesses beautiful colors of chestnut, rufous-cinnamon, black, white, maroon-chestnut, and golden-yellow.

How do they communicate?

These birds are quite noisy. They produce sharp sounds that sound like 'krrrek' as well as rapid, short sounds like 'kreep-kreep'. They also emit a barking-like sound that goes like 'kyowwrr'. They can be very noisy when they emit alarm calls and during flight as well.

How big is an African jacana?

These birds range between 8.2-12.2 in (21-31 cm) in length. They are two times the length of western tanager!

How fast can an African jacana fly?

The speed of this beautiful jacana has not been determined yet. However, we do know that these birds are weak fliers. They can fly with their rounded wings for a small duration only, over a short distance, while their legs are held behind straight out. They may not fly fast, but they sure are great divers and can swim underwater! They can even swim under the surface of the water to escape predators, and so can the young!

How much does an African jacana weigh?

These birds range between 4.8-9.1 oz (137-260 g) in weight.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The males and females of this species of the Jacanidae family do not have any specific names.

What would you call a baby African jacana?

The baby of these birds can be referred to as a chick.

What do they eat?

It consumes insects, mollusks, larvae, worms, snails, spiders, crustaceans, and seeds. It can search for food on the surface as well as lily pads. It grasps food with its bill or toes. It forages while walking on floating vegetation with its long toes that distribute the weight of its body evenly. It can even swim under the surface of the water to escape predators, and so can the young! The jacana chicks and eggs and chicks are consumed by aquatic snakes.

Are they dangerous?

No, these birds are not dangerous. However, if they feel that they are in danger, they will raise their wings to portray an aggressive pose to their predator.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these birds would not make great pets as their natural habitat comprises lots of floating vegetation over deep waters. This habitat cannot be mimicked in confinement.

Did you know...

When an intruding female conquers another territory that has been established by someone else, she kills the chicks in that territory so as to ensure that all the chicks around are hers only!

What does Jacana mean?

The word Jacana is a Portuguese word that originates from the bird name Tupi. It can be used to refer to any member of the Jacanidae family!

Do African jacanas migrate?

No, they do not migrate. However, they can be nomadic if the water levels change.  

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our owl facts for kids and stonechat surprising facts pages!

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable African Jacana coloring pages!

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