The Wattled Jacana
Length 25cm (10")
Distribution: Common in lowlands from Panama to northern Argentina mainly east of the Andes in southern part of range. Frequents freshwater marshes, lakes and slow-flowing rivers where it wades in damp vegetation or walks on floating water plants. Several subspecies are known to exist.
Identification Long-legged with very long toes. Bill yellow with red basal lobes. Adult black with dark-brown back and wings, flight feathers yellow. Immature bird is white below, brown above with blackish crown and eye-stripe and long white supercilium. It has a bright red shield on its forehead and red wattles or rictal lappets down the side of its yellow bill. It also has extremely long toes which allows it to walk on the floating vegetation of its habitat. Occasionally the yellow spurs on the wing are visible.
Juveniles: start off being dark brown above with white or buffy underparts and supercilium. The birds gradually acquire adult plumage but any white indicates a young bird.
Subspecies: There are six subspecies, J. j. jacana being the most widespread. Several of the other subspecies are similar, but J. j. hypomelaena of western Panama and northern Colombia has all the chestnut plumage replaced by black, and J. j. scapularis of western Ecuador has some black feathers on its chestnut shoulders, and white outer primary feathers.
Breeding: One female will mate with several males each with his own territory. The females are polyandrous, and will help to defend the nests of up to four mates. It is the male who incubates the eggs, with two eggs held between each wing and the breast, and looks after the chicks. If the female disappears and is replaced by another, the chicks are in danger of being killed by the new female so that her own eggs will have a better chance of survival.
Voice: A range of noisy rattles with a loud 'kee-kick' call.
Other names: Leljacana (dutch), Jacana noir (french), Jaçanã (portugese), Kepanki (surinam), Spurwing (guyana), Mabejau (carib), Kwerekwere (arowak).