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Jacanidae – Jacanas

Wattled Jacana in Argentina: Photo by Carlos Maure

Jacanas are unique waders known for their extraordinary ability to walk on floating vegetation, thanks to their long, slender toes. Found in tropical and subtropical wetlands worldwide, these birds have distinctive behaviors such as polyandry and complex nesting habits. While females are larger and more dominant, they court and mate with multiple males, who are responsible for incubating eggs and raising chicks. Jacanas’ striking plumage and bold facial markings make them stand out in their lush wetland habitats.

Overview of Jacanidae

Jacanas are known for their ability to traverse floating vegetation with their incredibly long, slender toes and extended nails, giving them the appearance of walking on water. These birds are vocal and often spend time away from cover, taking to the air quickly if threatened. Their polyandrous mating system means males take on all parental duties, overseeing their precocial young that can feed themselves immediately. The male shelters them under his wings when faced with danger, carefully leading his brood to safety on foot, as he is unable to fly while protecting them.