Madagascar Jacana

Actophilornis albinucha

Last updated: October 12, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
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The Madagascar jacana is endangered due to habitat loss and illegal hunting.

Madagascar Jacana Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Charadriiformes
Family
Jacanidae
Genus
Actophilornis
Scientific Name
Actophilornis albinucha

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Madagascar Jacana Conservation Status

Madagascar Jacana Locations

Madagascar Jacana Locations

Madagascar Jacana Facts

Prey
insects, larvae, invertebrates, and seeds from aquatic plants.
Main Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Largely solitary
Fun Fact
The Madagascar jacana is endangered due to habitat loss and illegal hunting.
Estimated Population Size
975 to 2,064
Biggest Threat
degradation of their wetland environments and illegal hunting
Most Distinctive Feature
white crown with black flecks
Distinctive Feature
blue frontal shield
Wingspan
20 inches
Incubation Period
22 to 28 days
Habitat
freshwater wetlands with abundant aquatic vegetation
Predators
crocodiles, birds of prey, otters, large fish, turtles, and water snakes.
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
Madagascar jacana
Location
Madagascar
Average Clutch Size
4
Nesting Location
Floating aquatic vegetation

Madagascar Jacana Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Chestnut
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
up to 10 years
Weight
4 to 10 ounces
Length
9 to 12 inches

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“These graceful birds walk across lily pads.”

Summary

The Madagascar jacana (Actophilornis albinucha) is a tropical wader endemic to the Island of Madagascar, off the coast of Southern Africa. They are heavy jacanas, similar in appearance to the African species. This bird spends its days foraging for insects while walking across floating vegetation. This jacana species is endangered due to a moderately rapid decrease in its population from illegal hunting and wetland degradation. Learn all the fascinating facts about this rare bird, including where it lives, what it eats, and how it behaves.

5 Amazing Madagascar Jacana Facts

  • They are endemic to Madagascar, where they inhabit wetlands.
  • The Madagascar jacana is one of the heaviest in its family and looks similar to the African jacana.
  • These birds are relatively solitary, preferring to forage alone or in pairs.
  • Like other jacanas, the males care for their young, while females engage in a polyandrous mating system.
  • The Madagascar jacana is endangered due to habitat loss and illegal hunting.

Where to Find the Madagascar Jacana

Madagascar
The Madagascar jacana is endemic to Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southern Africa.

©Framalicious/Shutterstock.com

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The Madagascar jacana is endemic to Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southern Africa. It inhabits the northern and western lowlands of the island and is absent or rare in Central, Southern, and Eastern Madagascar. It lives in freshwater wetlands with abundant aquatic vegetation, especially water lilies. You may also find this species in lakes, ponds, rivers, and marshes. Look for it walking across the water and listen for its sharp calls.

Madagascar Jacana Nest

Males build their nests on floating aquatic vegetation, often partially submerged under the water’s surface. They also add plant material around the eggs to conceal or place them in an area with vegetative coverings. 

Scientific Name

The Madagascar jacana (Actophilornis albinucha) is a member of the Charadriiformes order, which includes birds near water who eat invertebrates. Its Jacanidae family encompasses the jacanas, a group of tropical waders. The Actophilornis genus consists of the Madagascar and African jacanas. Its specific name, Albinucha, is New Latin for “white nape,” referring to its white crown and hindneck.

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

The Madagascar is a large jacana bird, one of the heaviest in its family. However, we are unsure of its exact measurements. It is similar in size and appearance to the African jacana, which weighs between four and ten ounces, measures nine to twelve inches, and has a 20-inch wingspan. Its body and wings are a chestnut color with a black face, chin, and throat. Its crown and hindneck are white with black flecks, and its frontal shield is light blue. Both sexes have similar coloring, but the females are more prominent, with longer tails and wings. They exhibit sharp calls when quarreling and a longer sequenced trill when displaying. These birds are relatively solitary, often spotted alone or in pairs. But they may form small groups outside the breeding season. Like other jacanas, this species is a weak flier, preferring to walk in its wetland habitat. 

Migration Pattern and Timing

The Madagascar jacana does not migrate. It is a year-round resident in its wetland environment.

Diet

The Madagascar jacana is an omnivore who forages on floating vegetation.

What Does the Madagascar Jacana Eat?

Jacanas eat insects, larvae, invertebrates, and seeds from aquatic plants. With its head and bill lowered, it picks insects from plant roots. They forage by walking across the water on vegetation, using their long legs, enormous feet, and elongated toes to steady themselves. They do not feed in groups. Instead, you will often find them alone, with their young, or occasionally in a pair.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the Madagascar jacana as EN or “endangered.” They qualify for this status due to their small population undergoing a moderately rapid decline. Their biggest threats include the degradation of their wetland environments and illegal hunting. Freshwater wetlands are highly threatened in Madagascar because of their conversion to rice paddies. They have been living in altered habitats, like nearby lakes, but it’s unclear how long they can survive in modified environments.

What Eats the Madagascar Jacana?

Madagascar jacana’s predators include crocodiles, birds of prey, otters, large fish, turtles, and water snakes. These birds have sharp wing spurs and will use them to defend themselves. Their young are especially vulnerable to nest predators, but they learn to dive underwater at a young age. Fathers will also carry their babies under their wings and bring them to safety.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Breeding can happen year-round but most often occurs from December to June. Like most jacanas, the Madagascar displays sociosexual role reversal and participates in a polyandrous mating system. Females defend the territory and copulate with multiple males, spreading egg clutches to at least two or three mates. Males are the sole caregivers to their young and take care of all duties, including nest building, incubation, brooding, and rearing. Females lay four olive-colored eggs with dark markings, and males incubate for 22 to 28 days. It is not known when their young fledge the nest and become independent. Their average lifespan is 4.6 years, but they can live up to 10.

Population

The Madagascar jacana global population is 975 to 2,064, which equates to 780 to 1,643 mature individuals. While they are not experiencing extreme fluctuations or fragmentations, their numbers are declining and becoming increasingly rare in their habitats. This moderate decline is due to habitat degradation and hunting pressure.

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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!

Madagascar Jacana FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where does the Madagascar jacana live?

The Madagascar jacana is endemic to Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southern Africa.

How big is the Madagascar jacana?

The Madagascar is a large jacana bird, one of the heaviest in its family. However, we are unsure of its exact measurements.

How does the Madagascar jacana behave?

They exhibit sharp calls when quarreling and a longer sequenced trill when displaying. These birds are relatively solitary, often spotted alone or in pairs. But they may form small groups outside the breeding season.

Does the Madagascar jacana migrate?

The Madagascar jacana does not migrate. It is a year-round resident in its wetland environment.

What does the Madagascar jacana?

Jacanas eat insects, larvae, invertebrates, and seeds from aquatic plants.

What threatens the Madagascar jacana?

Their biggest threats include the degradation of their wetland environments and illegal hunting. Freshwater wetlands are highly threatened in Madagascar because of their conversion to rice paddies.

What preys on the Madagascar jacana?

Madagascar jacana’s predators include crocodiles, birds of prey, otters, large fish, turtles, and water snakes.

How many eggs does the Madagascar jacana lay?

Females lay four olive-colored eggs with dark markings, and males incubate for 22 to 28 days.

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Sources
  1. Red List / BirdLife International, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22693532/173128661
  2. Taylor Francis Online / Journal of African Ornithology Vol. 90, Available here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2989/00306525.2019.1662508
  3. Birds of Madagascar: A Photographic Guide / Pete Morris, Frank Hawkins, Available here: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=SuIL_E3HNsYC&oi=fnd&pg=PP11&dq=madagascar+jacana&ots=RHVhlwNJL2&sig=Qzd2iamydYXY7exBfzobBykvRcw#v=onepage&q=madagascar%20jacana&f=false

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