Lesser Jacana

Microparra capensis

Last updated: October 17, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© John Peter Davies/Shutterstock.com

The lesser jacana is nomadic, often moving in search of temporary wetland habitats.

Lesser Jacana Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Charadriiformes
Family
Jacanidae
Genus
Microparra
Scientific Name
Microparra capensis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Lesser Jacana Conservation Status

Lesser Jacana Locations

Lesser Jacana Locations

Lesser Jacana Facts

Prey
insects, snails, spiders, larvae, worms, mollusks, fish, and crabs.
Main Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Social
Fun Fact
The lesser jacana is nomadic, often moving in search of temporary wetland habitats.
Estimated Population Size
Uknown
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Long legs, enormous feet, and elongated toes
Distinctive Feature
black stripe across its eyes
Incubation Period
19 days
Age Of Independence
60 days
Age Of Fledgling
10 to 32 days
Habitat
shallow waters of freshwater wetlands
Predators
birds of prey, otters, crocodiles, large fish, turtles, and water snakes.
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
Lesser jacana
Location
Africa
Nesting Location
Floating vegetation

Lesser Jacana Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Black
  • White
  • Chestnut
  • Grey-Brown
Skin Type
Feathers

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View all of the Lesser Jacana images!



“They effortlessly walk across lily pads.”

Summary

The lesser jacana is a small wader from Sub-Saharan Africa, where it inhabits freshwater wetlands with abundant vegetation. This species differs from other jacanas due to its more traditional monogamous mating system. But they spend their days like their other family members, walking across floating lily pads and foraging for food. Discover everything there is to know about this uncommon jacana, including where they live, how they behave, and what they eat.

5 Amazing Lesser Jacana Facts

  • The lesser jacana is nomadic, often moving in search of temporary wetland habitats.
  • They incubate their eggs by holding them against their breast with the undersides of their wings.
  • The lesser jacana is the only jacana known to be monogamous. Males and females both assist in incubation and caring for the young.
  • They turn leaves over with their long toes, searching for insects.
  • They use their sharp wing spurs to defend themselves from predators.

Where to Find the Lesser Jacana

The lesser jacana lives in Africa in 28 countries, including Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Eswatini, Kenya, and Nigeria. You will find this bird in Sub-Saharan, primarily in patches, not continuously. It is more widespread from Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola to South Africa. This species inhabits the shallow waters of freshwater wetlands, with abundant vegetation like sedges, water lilies, and emergent grasses. They may also live in the backwaters of lakes and dams. 

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Lesser Jacana Nest

Jacanas place their eggs directly on lily pads, or they build a loose nest on floating vegetation. This species incubates its eggs by holding them against its breast with the underside of its wings.

Scientific Name

The lesser jacana (Microparra Capensis) belongs to the Charadriiformes order, a diverse group of birds living near water and eating invertebrates. Their Jacanidae family encompasses all jacanas, and they are the only species in their genus, Microparra. 

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

Lesser jacana
The lesser jacana is nomadic, often moving in search of temporary wetland habitats.

©JMx Images/Shutterstock.com

The lesser is a very small jacana, but we don’t know their measurements or weight. Their face, neck, and undersides are white, with a grayish-brown back and wings. They have chestnut coloring on their crown, breast sides, rump, and tail. A black stripe runs across its eyes, from its beak to its crown. Like other jacanas, this species has long legs, enormous feet, and elongated toes.

We don’t know much about this species’ behavior, so we can only assume they behave similarly to other jacanas. They most likely spend their days foraging on the water by walking on lily pads and other vegetation. They are weak fliers who prefer to stay on the water; they are excellent swimmers and divers. Jacanas are relatively vocal, often giving alarm calls, and are most likely social. However, this species is not polyandrous like the others. So it may lean more solitary, forming pair bonds instead. They are highly nomadic, often moving in search of temporary wetlands.

Migration Pattern and Timing

Jacanas do not migrate. However, they may wander slightly from their environments if their wetland homes dry out.

Diet

The lesser jacana is a carnivore who primarily eats insects.

What Does the Lesser Jacana Eat?

Jacanas eat insects, snails, spiders, larvae, worms, mollusks, fish, and crabs. They may also supplement their diet with seeds. This species forages by walking across floating vegetation and turning leaves over with their long bills or toes. They will eat whatever is caught in the water lily’s roots. 

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the lesser jacana as LC or “least concern.” Due to its extensive range and moderately-sized population, this species does not meet the thresholds for “threatened” status. While they don’t seem to suffer from any significant threats, they are still affected by habitat loss to their wetland homes.

What Eats the Lesser Jacana?

Like other jacanas, the lesser fall victim to birds of prey, otters, crocodiles, large fish, turtles, and water snakes. They use their sharp wing spurs to defend themselves or will dive underwater to evade predators. These birds are known for picking their young up and carrying them under their wings to safety.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Jacanas are polyandrous, and they display role reversal of the sexes. Females are focused on mating and laying egg clutches for multiple mates. The males are the sole caregivers for their young. However, the lesser jacana is the only jacana known for being monogamous. But to what extent, we don’t know. Researchers believe their small egg size necessitates a higher rate of care, which could account for the difference in their sociosexual roles. Females lay three to four eggs, and both parents incubate for around 19 days. The young fledge the nest about 10 to 32 days but don’t become independent until they are at least 60 days old. 

Population

The global lesser jacana population is unknown, but there are no extreme fluctuations or fragmentations in their numbers. However, their population trends are challenging to determine due to the uncertainty of the impacts of habitat modification.

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

Lesser Jacana FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where do lesser jacanas live?

The lesser jacana lives in Africa in 28 countries, including Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Eswatini, Kenya, and Nigeria.

What does a lesser jacana look like?

Their face, neck, and undersides are white, with a grayish-brown back and wings. They have chestnut coloring on their crown, breast sides, rump, and tail. A black stripe runs across its eyes, from its beak to its crown.

How do lesser jacana behave?

They most likely spend their days foraging on the water by walking on lily pads and other vegetation. They are weak fliers who prefer to stay on the water; they are excellent swimmers and divers. Jacanas are relatively vocal, often giving alarm calls, and are most likely social.

Do lesser jacana migrate?

Jacanas do not migrate. However, they may wander slightly from their environments if their wetland homes dry out.

What do lesser jacana eat?

Jacanas eat insects, snails, spiders, larvae, worms, mollusks, fish, and crabs.

What threatens the lesser jacana?

While they don’t seem to suffer from any significant threats, they are still affected by habitat loss to their wetland homes.

What preys on lesser jacana?

Like other jacanas, the lesser fall victim to birds of prey, otters, crocodiles, large fish, turtles, and water snakes.

How many eggs does the lesser jacana lay?

Females lay three to four eggs, and both parents incubate for around 19 days.

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