This bright and brilliant bird can walk on water. They have special large feet (and claws) that distribute their weight allowing them to effortlessly walk on floating vegetation.
There are eight species of jacana in the world, the comb-crested jacana occurs primarily in Australia, the Philippines, and surrounding islands. Jacanas inhabit the world’s tropical zones.
Feeding on aquatic insects and invertebrates, the bird rarely visits the shore. I have watched the Australian and African jacanas for long periods, and never saw them on land, always in water.
Irediparra gallinacea meander on the floating leaves and lily pads, stopping to feed, making their way across the water’s surface. They can fly and swim, but prefer to walk.
While in Africa we saw a juvenile jacana–a very curious-looking youngster with over-sized feet, wavering precariously and not as confident of each step as the nearby adults.
The Australian jacana, the comb-crested, is one of the most beautiful species, with a bright red wattle covering the forehead and forecrown.
More info here.
We spent five days in Kakadu National Park on the north side of Australia. It was 110 degrees F. (43 C.) every day we were there, so we spent a lot of time near the rivers and were often greeted by the jacana, also known as lily trotter.
They also build their precarious nests on the floating vegetation. The eggs are camouflaged with lines. Only males incubate while the females find a new male to mate with.
Water’s surface is nowhere for a baby to live, so the chicks are born well-developed and soon leave the nest.
Most of us are accustomed to seeing wading birds either with their feet submerged or in muck.
How unusual and refreshing it was to see this bird gracefully traveling atop the lily pads.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless otherwise noted