Also known as the lily-trottersAfrican Jacanas are conspicuous and unmistakable birds and are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa. They are also known as Jesus birds because of their ability to walk on water with their slender legs and curiously long toes.
In actual fact, they precisely walk on floating vegetation, therefore gives the impression that they are walking on water. This ability earned them their other nickname – lily-trotters. They are mostly seen walking on water lilies where they spend most of their days searching for food such as aquatic insects and larvae, worms, snails and other arthropods.
When searching for food, they swim over open water from one vegetated area to another. They can also swim underwater to avoid predators. It is interesting that the Jacanas chicks can also swim just as well as their parents. In dangerous situations, the chicks can hide underwater with only the tip of their bills sticking out above the surface.
Their flying ability does not match their ability to walk on water. The African jacana normally fly short distances with their wings curved, legs hanging or held horizontally behind.
The jacana has evolved a very strange polyandrous mating system, meaning that one female mate with multiple males and the male alone cares for the chicks. Such a system of females forming harems of males is in direct contrast to the more usual system of leeks seen in animals where the males compete and display in order to gain harems of females. In fact, the Female jacana can lay up to ten successive clutches of eggs in one season.
The parent that forms part of the harem is constantly the one that ends up caring for the offspring. In this case, each male jacana incubates and rears a nest of chicks. In an Actual sense, they lays their eggs in a floating nest and eggs can be equally well incubated and cared for by a parent bird of either gender. Nests are actually built on small loose floating islands of marshy vegetation over deep water.
The male jacana tends to all nesting duties from nest building to bringing up the chicks. They have evolved a remarkable adaptation for parental care, such as the ability to pick up and carry chicks underneath its wings thus makes them expert single dads, as they care for the chicks alone.
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