Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa)

Northern Jacana

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Jacanidae | [latin] Jacana spinosa | [UK] Northern Jacana | [FR] Jacana du Mexique | [DE] Gelbstirn-Blatthuhnchen | [ES] Jacana Centroamericana | [NL] Jacana


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Jacana spinosa MA also Caribbean
Jacana spinosa gymnostoma Mexico, Cozumel I.
Jacana spinosa spinosa Belize and Guatemala to w Panama
Jacana spinosa violacea Cuba, Isle of Pines, Jamaica, Hispaniola

Physical charateristics

Built somewhat like a shorebird, with extremely long toes. Adult: Head and neck blackish, rest of body deep rusty. The best field marks are the conspicuous yellow frontal shield on the forehead and
large palegreenish yellow wing patches. Immature:
Gray-brown above, whitish underparts; a broad white stripe over the eye. The extremely long toes and great lemon yellow wing patches, also the raillike flight, notes, and habitat, distinguish it from any shorebird.

Listen to the sound of Northern Jacana

[audio: Jacana.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 48 cm wingspan max.: 52 cm
size min.: 23 cm size max.: 25 cm
incubation min.: 23 days incubation max.: 25 days
fledging min.: 1 days fledging max.: 1 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Middle America : also Caribbean


Marshes, overgrown ponds. In the tropics, found on a wide varie
ty of shallow freshwater ponds and lake margins, especially those with much floating vegetation. In United States, has occurred mostly in Texas, on large fresh ponds surrounded by extensive marsh and with floating plants such as lily pads, water hyacinth.


One female may have up to 4 mates; she lays eggs in separate nests for each, and males do almost all the work of incubating the eggs and caring for the young.
Nest: Site is on top of marsh vegetation, either standing or floating, in shallow water. Nest (built by male) is a flimsy open cup made of available plant material; male continues to add to nest during incubation period.
Eggs: Usually 4, sometimes 3-5. Almost round; brown, scrawled with black lines. Incubation is by male only, 22-24 days. During hot part of day, male shades eggs from sun.
Young: Downy young leave nest within 1-
2 days after hatching. Male tends young and leads them to feeding sites, but young feed themselves; male broods young during rain or cool weather. Female sometimes accompanies young, but less than male. Age at first flight about 4 weeks.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects. Diet in Texas not well known. In Costa Rica, reported to feed almost entirely on insects; occasionally eats small fish.
Behavior: Forages by walking about on mats of floating vegetation, picking insects from surface of plants or water, sometimes from just below water’s surface. Also forages on mud or open ground near water.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Northern Jacana status Least Concern


Southern Texas (rarely) to western Panama; West Indies. Migration:
No regular migration, but wanders irregularly. Seems to stray into Texas most often after a series of seasons with good rainfall have created much good habitat in northeastern Mexico and southern Texas. Has also strayed to Arizona, possibly Florida.

Distribution map

Northern Jacana distribution range map

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