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The Wattled Jacana

Updated on January 24, 2016
Blond Logic profile image

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.

Head shot of the Wattled Jacana
Head shot of the Wattled Jacana | Source

The Wattled Jacana a Daily Visitor

I dare say they don't realize that we are watching them as they too are watching us. Many a morning over coffee my husband and I sit and watched the wattled jacanas probing in the wet sand around our lake in front of our house. They will eat insects and invertebrates found at the edge and in the shallow water. They also will strut their stuff across the tops of floating lilies as their wide feet spread the weight of their body.
It is this action which has given them the name, Jesus Birds.

Although these have been here longer than we have, unlike many of the other birds, they are still skittish around us. There is a tendency with them to make an alarm call at the slightest disturbances. This is done by throwing their wings straight up and alerting all the other birds of potential danger.

Often they will just fly to the opposite side of the lake and continue feeding.

Wattled Jacana walking on lilies

Wattled Jacana
Wattled Jacana | Source

Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana)


Besides probing into the sand with their beaks for food, they will walk across the lilies in search of bugs which have chosen this as a place to rest. The jacana will also flip the lilies up to see beneath them for any tasty morsel.

They are equally at home on top of the water, wading through, or on the shore when it comes time to look for food.


Have you had the opportunity to see wattled Jacanas?

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Conservation Status

Thankfully this wonderful bird is in the category of least concern. This is due to its plentiful numbers in many locations throughout central and south America and world wide in the tropical zones.Its varied diet also helps ensure the survival of this wetland bird.

The nest of the Jacana

The nest is one of the worst I have seen! I few bits of vegetation on top of a lily. Really, what kind of nest is that? Especially where we live where it is constantly windy, the eggs are at risk of rolling off the lily.

We have had them nest several times and find it amazing that these makeshift nests do the trick. We do have snakes, cats, egrets, our dogs and any number of other predators that could eat the eggs or young chicks.

The nest has four eggs and it is the male who incubates them. He will tuck them under his wings and hold them against his chest. If he fears a problem, such as another bird getting too close, he will send out an alarm call and the female will return. Since the male is in charge of the incubating, this leaves the female available. She has been known to have multiple nests with other males at the same time.

When they are born they look like a bit of fluff with big feet. They look so small it seems they could blow away in the slightest breeze. When we have seen the babies, they will stand stock still as to not give their position away.

The parents will fly a short distance away and drop their wings in an attempt to feign injury thus drawing the threat away from their young and to them. This then gives the chicks time to hide.

I have read that the chicks will submerge themselves in water just leaving their beaks exposed to breathe until they hear the 'all clear' signal from their parent. I personally have never seen this but it could explain why these birds survive and thrive when others don't.

Different names for the Jacana

The Latin name for the wattled jacana is 'jacana jacana'. The 'c' is pronounced like an 's' as in fa├žade. This is a word derived from the Tupi Indians of Brazil.

In some places they are called the spurwing or lily trotters. Sometimes they are also referred to as Jesus birds because their ability to walk on water.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wattled Jacana eggsWattled Jacana in flightMale and Female JacanaJuvenile Jacana Adult Jacana with chicks
Wattled Jacana eggs
Wattled Jacana eggs | Source
Wattled Jacana in flight
Wattled Jacana in flight | Source
Male and Female Jacana
Male and Female Jacana | Source
Juvenile Jacana
Juvenile Jacana | Source
Adult Jacana with chicks
Adult Jacana with chicks | Source

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