The American, Mexican or Northern Jacana
Length 20cm (8") Weight 100g
Distribution: Central America from Mexico to Panama and on the larger Caribbean islands. Is occassionally found as far north as southern Texas. There are 9 distinct subspecies with strongly marked geographic populations in Central America which would possibly include J. jacana. One is entirely black and several other colour phases also occur.
Identification: It has brown plumage, a yellow or red frontal shield, and a pointed spur at the angle of the wing. The head, breast and back are all black and there is yellow on the wing which is more visible when the bird is flying. The legs are greenish. Both sexes are alike in plumage.
Behaviour: It can swim but does so reluctantly. It will occasionally fly, usually slowly with dangling legs. In more sustained flight, the legs are extended backwards with the long toes projecting. They also hold their wings up after landing.
Voice: Here is a recording of its noisy mating call (recorded by Doug Van Gausig at Quepos, Costa Rica).
Breeding: Both sexes display to one another by raising their wings to reveal vivid yellow patches underneath. The female is bigger than the male and, when breeding, holds a large territory that encompasses up to four male territories. Each male has its own nest in which he incubates a clutch of her eggs and rears and feeds the young.
Pronunciation: The name Jacana comes from the Portuguese who adopted it from the popular native name, Jassana, given to this bird by the Tupi Indians of the Amazon basin. It is pronounced zhá-sa-ná with accents on the first and last syllables and with the 'c' soft.
Native names: Jacana Centroamericana, Mulita, Cirujano, Gallito de Agua,