Wattled Jacana

Jacana Jacana

Last updated: October 11, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Pablo Rodriguez Merkel/Shutterstock.com

They are typically noisy birds but take on a soft tone with their young.

Wattled Jacana Scientific Classification

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

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Wattled Jacana Conservation Status

Wattled Jacana Locations

Wattled Jacana Locations

Wattled Jacana Facts

Prey
insects, worms, snails, small crabs, mollusks, fish, and seeds
Main Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Mainly solitary
Fun Fact
They are typically noisy birds but take on a soft tone with their young.
Estimated Population Size
5 to 50 million
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Chestnut and black plumage
Distinctive Feature
Red wattles and greenish-yellow flight feathers
Incubation Period
28 days
Habitat
Freshwater wetlands with floating vegetation
Predators
Birds of prey, large fish, turtles, crocodiles, and snakes
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
Wattled jacana
Special Features
bony spurs, elongated toes
Location
South America
Average Clutch Size
4
Nesting Location
partially submerged floating vegetation

Wattled Jacana Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Black
  • White
  • Chestnut
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
6.5 years
Weight
3 to 5 ounces
Length
8 to 12 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
1 to 2 years

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“This South American species has black and chestnut plumage.”

Summary

The wattled jacana (Jacana jacana) is a medium-sized wader native to most of South America. Freshwater wetlands are their preferred environments, where they forage on floating vegetation, using their elongated toes to turn over plants in the hopes of catching an invertebrate. These birds are known for their loud cackles but have a sweet spot for their young. Find out everything there is to know about this interesting species, including where they live, what they eat, and how they behave.

5 Amazing Wattled Jacana Facts

  • The wattled jacana is native to South America and one of the only species from the Americas.
  • They are black and chestnut-colored with distinctive greenish-yellow flight feathers.
  • They are typically noisy birds but take on a soft tone with their young.
  • They dive under the water’s surface to escape predators.
  • Their young are born in advanced states, but their father cares for them for several weeks.

Where to Find the Wattled Jacana

The wattled jacana lives in South America in over 18 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. You can find this species from Western Panama and Trinidad and south through most of the continent east of the Andes. Jacanas live in freshwater wetlands with abundant floating vegetation. It may also venture to nearby meadows and grasslands but prefers to forage in shallow water in its preferred environment. Look for them walking across the water, using their enormous feet to steady themselves on aquatic plants

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Wattled Jacana Nest

With limited assistance from females, males build their nests on partially submerged floating vegetation. They form it using stems and aquatic plants and typically surround it with nearby greenery to conceal it from nest predators.

Scientific Name

The wattled jacana (Jacana jacana) is from the Charadriiformes order, which contains 390 bird species that live near water and eat invertebrates. Its Jacanidae family encompasses the jacanas, a group of tropical waders. Jacana’s genus comprises the American species, including the northern and wattled jacana. 

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

Wattled Jacana
Like other jacana species, the wattled jacana can fall prey to birds of prey (hawks, owls, eagles, etc.), large fish, turtles, otters, crocodiles, and water snakes.

©Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com

The wattled jacana is a medium-sized wader, measuring eight to twelve inches and weighing three to five ounces with an unknown wingspan. Adults have chestnut-colored backs and wings and are black everywhere else. Their flight feathers are greenish-yellow, and they have yellow bony spurs on their wings. Its yellow bill extends up to a red shield and wattle. Their young have white underparts. Like other jacana species, they have long legs, enormous feet, and elongated toes. These birds are noisy and make sharp, cackling calls, getting louder when in the presence of intruders or predators. However, their sounds are soft and light when they converse with their mates or their young. Jacanas are not strong fliers and prefer to stay in the water, where they are excellent swimmers and divers.

Migration Pattern and Timing

Wattled jacanas are nonmigratory, meaning they live year-round in their environments.

Diet

The wattled jacana is primarily carnivorous but may supplement its diet with seeds.

What Does the Wattled Jacana Eat?

Wattled jacanas eat insects, worms, snails, small crabs, mollusks, fish, and seeds. They forage for food using their pointy bills or elongated toes to flip over vegetation as they wade in the water. It will also upturn the roots of aquatic plants to find invertebrates.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the wattled jacana as LC or “least concern.” Due to its extensive range and large, stable population, this species does not meet the “threatened” status thresholds. While this species is not experiencing any significant threats at the moment, they are susceptible to habitat loss, wetland drainage, and human-related disturbances.

What Eats the Wattled Jacana?

Like other jacana species, the wattled jacana can fall prey to birds of prey (hawks, owls, eagles, etc.), large fish, turtles, otters, crocodiles, and water snakes. Jacanas use the water to their advantage, depending on what’s hunting them, by diving under the surface to escape. They will even stay under with their beaks poking out and wait for the threat to pass. Fathers teach their young how to do this at a young age. They also have sharp wing spurs they can use in defense if all else fails.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Like others in its species, the wattled jacana participates in a polyandrous mating system. The females are territorial and mate with multiple partners, while the males solely care for the young. Females will create a harem of males (sometimes three or four) and spread their egg clutches around. If the males doubt their paternity, they will destroy the clutch. Females lay four eggs, and males incubate them for 28 days. The chicks are born in an advanced state, but their fathers will care for them for several weeks. The young become sexually mature by one to two years old. Their average lifespan is 6.5 years.

Population

The global wattled jacana population is estimated to number 5 to 50 million mature individuals. Their current population trend is stable, and there don’t appear to be any extreme fluctuations or fragmentations in their numbers.

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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!

Wattled Jacana FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where do wattled jacanas live?

The wattled jacana lives in South America in over 18 countries. You can find this species from Western Panama and Trinidad and south through most of the continent east of the Andes.

How big are wattled jacana?

The wattled jacana is a medium-sized wader, measuring eight to twelve inches and weighing three to five ounces with an unknown wingspan.

What does the wattled jacana sound like?

These birds are noisy and make sharp, cackling calls, getting louder when in the presence of intruders or predators. However, their sounds are soft and light when they converse with their mates or their young.

Does the wattled jacana migrate?

Wattled jacanas are nonmigratory, meaning they live year-round in their environments.

What does the wattled jacana eat?

Wattled jacanas eat insects, worms, snails, small crabs, mollusks, fish, and seeds.

What threatens the wattled jacana?

While this species is not experiencing any significant threats at the moment, they are susceptible to habitat loss, wetland drainage, and human-related disturbances.

How many eggs does the wattled jacana lay?

 Females lay four eggs, and males incubate them for 28 days.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Red List / BirdLife International , Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22693553/163616643
  2. Oxford Academic / The Auk, Volume 121, Issue 2 / Stephen T. Emlen, Peter H. Wrege, Available here: https://academic.oup.com/auk/article/121/2/391/5562331
  3. JSTOR / The Wilson Bulletin Vol. 94, No. 2 / David R. Osborne, Available here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4161612
  4. JSTOR / The Condor Vol. 79, No. 1 / David R. Osborne and Godfrey R. Bourne, Available here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1367536

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