Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana)

Wattled Jacana

[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Jacanidae | [latin] Jacana jacana | [UK] Wattled Jacana | [FR] Jacana noir | [DE] Rotstirn-Blatthuhnchen | [ES] Jacana Suramericana | [IT] Jacana dai barbigli | [NL] Leljacana


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Pedionomus jacana
Jacana jacana
Jacana jacana SA widespread
Jacana jacana hypomelaena wc Panama to n Colombia
Jacana jacana intermedia n and c Venezuela
Jacana jacana jacana Trinidad, s Colombia and s Venezuela through the Guianas south to e Bolivia, n Argentina and Uruguay
Jacana jacana melanopygia w Colombia to w Venezuela
Jacana jacana peruviana ne Peru, nw Brazil
Jacana jacana scapularis w Ecuador, nw Peru

Physical charateristics

The wattled jacana is unmistakable with its exaggerated feet that are fit for a fairy tale and red, turkeylike wattles. Also called the lily-trotter, its toes and toenails distribute its weight over large areas to help it sprint across aquatic vegetation as if defying gravity.

Listen to the sound of Wattled Jacana

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/W/Wattled Jacana.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: cm wingspan max.: cm
size min.: 24 cm size max.: 26 cm
incubation min.: 22 days incubation max.: 28 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 4  




Jacanas are found in the Old World and New World tropics, including parts of Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Madagascar.


Jacanas inhabit aquatic environments such as marshes or ponds in open (rather than forested) areas. They prefer water bodies that are covered in vegetation, since they use floating vegetation for both feeding and shelter. Jacanas have also been found in flooded pastures or rice fields.


Jacana females are much larger than the males and are dominant over them. A single female breeds with up to four males during the breeding season, defending a large territory against other jacana females. Males are responsible for building the nest, sitting on the eggs, and caring for the chicks once they hatch. Females show their dominance to males by pecking at their necks and backs. To show his submission, the male crouches and lowers his head.
A single female jacana mates with multiples males, usually between one and four. This breeding system, which is not very common in birds, is known as polyandry (PAH-lee-an-dree). The female jacana is significantly larger than the males and is responsible for defending the territories of her mates. When another female approaches, males call to their mate. Disputes between female jacanas are usually resolved using displays in which the wings are spread, showing off the sharp wing spurs, followed by physical fights if necessary. Physical fights involve jabbing with either the bill or the wing spurs. If the intruder succeeds in chasing off the original female, she will generally kill any chicks from the previous matings so that the male jacanas will be free to tend new sets of eggs. The new female will also peck at the male’s neck and back to show her dominance. Males crouch and lower their heads in response. Jacana territories are usually about the size of half a football field.
Jacanas generally breed during the rainy season. Males begin by building several potential nest sites. The female decides which to lay eggs in, or chooses a new site within the territory for a nest. Jacana nests typically consist of water lily leaves or other plant material on top of a mat of floating vegetation. The male and female flash their wings at each other before mating. Males are responsible for incubating, or sitting on and warming, the eggs. Generally, 4 eggs are laid at a time, and chicks hatch after 22 to 28 days. Males are responsible for feeding the chicks and for protecting them. Males call to the chicks when there is danger and settle them under the wings. Males will also sometimes fake a broken wing in order to attract the attention of predators and allow the chicks to escape. Numerous predators prey on young jacanas, including the purple gallinule (a rail of the family Rallidae), snakes, otters, and turtles. Fewer than half of all jacana chicks make it out of the nest, and another half die before reaching adulthood.

Feeding habits

Jacanas eat primarily insects. They forage, or search for food, by floating on water lilies or other vegetation and turning over the large leafs with their long toes. They then eat the insects or seeds caught in the water lily’s roots. Jacanas also forage for seeds among the blades of marsh grasses. Rarely, they will eat larger prey such as small fish.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 14,000,000 km2. The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as ‘common’ in at least parts of its range (Stotz et al. 1996). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Wattled Jacana status Least Concern


Sedentary with short movements may occur in areas where water levels drop.

Distribution map

Wattled Jacana range map


Title Long-Winged Harrier Predation on Wattled Jacana Eggs
Abstract: Long-winged Harriers (Circus buffoni) prey on smal..[more]..
Source: Wilson Bulletin: Vol. 91, No. 3

download full text (pdf)

Abstract: Little is known about the biology of the Wattled J..[more]..
Source: The Condor 79:98-105, 1977

download full text (pdf)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *