Jacanas have long claws that help them distribute their weight, allowing them to walk on floating vegetation while carrying their babies

Jacanas, often called “lily-trotters” or “Jesus birds,” are a distinctive group of wading birds belonging to the family Jacanidae. They are known for their incredible ability to walk on floating vegetation due to their exceptionally long toes and claws, which distribute their weight effectively over a large surface area. This adaptation allows them to forage on the surface of freshwater bodies, such as swamps, ponds, and lakes, particularly in tropical regions around the world.

These birds exhibit a wide variety of colorful plumage, which, along with features like frontal combs or shields, assists in differentiating between species. The Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana) is particularly striking, with adults sporting a bold red forehead, vibrant yellow bill, and a predominantly blackish body, contrasted with striking yellow wattle. Juvenile-wattled jacanas display a more subdued bronzy-brown plumage with whitish underparts, gradually changing as they mature.

Another species, the Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa), can be recognized by its yellow frontal shield and bill, which complements its black head and neck and a body with shades of reddish-brown. This vibrant coloration is not just for display; it plays a role in species recognition, sexual selection, and territorial disputes.

The reproductive behavior of jacanas is particularly fascinating and somewhat unique among birds. They exhibit polyandrous mating systems, where one female mates with multiple males, and the males take on the primary role of incubating the eggs and caring for the young. This reversal of typical avian parental roles is associated with the high level of paternal care provided by male jacanas, which includes carrying chicks under their wings for protection and warmth, giving rise to the illusion of a bird with multiple legs.