Jacanas are small, light aquatic birds characterised by their extremely long and narrow toes and claws that help them to walk easily on floating vegetation. They feed on aquatic insects, molluscs, small fish and also seeds and young shoots from freshwater plants.
Argentina, Aruba, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, the Antilles, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela
- Distribution / Resident
- Extint in the wild
- Critically endangered
- In Danger
- Near threatened
- Minor concern
- Insufficient data
- Not evaluated
Discover how they are
Wattled jacanas are small and lightweight aquatic birds whose distinguishing traits include their extremely large feet with long slender toes, which let them walk easily on floating vegetation, particularly on water-lily leaves. The only sign of sexual dimorphism is that females are slightly larger than males. Their colouring is cinnamon on wings and dorsal, while the belly, neck and head are black. The primary and flight feathers are bright yellow and the tail--extremely small--is a reddish colour, like the plumage on the dorsal and rump. It has a long yellow beak and red excrescent wattles over the beak and on its sides. Although it is divided into six subspecies, the appearance of five of them is very similar. One of them, the Panama wattled jacana (Jacana jacana hypomelaena), has completely black plumage, except for the outsides of the primary feathers, which have a yellow colour.
They live in all aquatic regions with abundant floating plants, in a good part of South America, from Panama to northern Argentina, avoiding the Pacific coastline, although there are some populations on the coasts of Ecuador.
They feed on aquatic insects, molluscs, small fish and seeds from fresh-water plants.
Due to their distribution, extending from southernmost points to the tropics, the breeding period varies from specific months to the entire year, with several laying and breeding periods. They tend to make floating nests with large quantities of aquatic plants. The female lays four brownish eggs with black marks, letting them better camouflage the nest. Oddly, the male takes charge of building the nest, incubating—for some 28 days—and caring for the chicks. This is a classically polygenic breeding behaviour and one of the few cases found among birds.
They are sedentary birds, only undertaking relatively short movements during periods of drought or if there are large-scale floods.
This species is still common in many regions of its extensive area of distribution. It is directly dependent on the health of the lagoons and other sources of water where it can live, given that their populations can drop occasionally during times of extreme drought and human action that desiccates water points.