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Birdwatching in Africa - African Jacana, Actophilornis africanus

The African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus) is a wader in the family Jacanidae, identifiable by long toes and long claws that enable them to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes, their preferred habitat. Jacanas are found worldwide within the tropical zone, and this species is found in sub-saharan Africa.

Range map from

Range map
Range map from - Ornithological Portal is one of those MUST visit pages if you're in to bird watching. You can find just about everything there


Food and feeding
African jacanas feed on insects and other invertebrates picked from the floating vegetation or the surface of the water.

African jacanas breed throughout sub-Saharan Africa. It is sedentary apart from seasonal dispersion. It lays four black-marked brown eggs in a floating nest.

The jacana has evolved a highly unusually polyandrous mating system, meaning that one female mates with multiple males and the male alone cares for the chicks. Such a system has evolved due to a combination of two factors: firstly, the lakes that the jacana lives on are so resource-rich that the relative energy expended by the female in producing each egg is effectively negligible.

African Jacana, Actophilornis africanus

Actophilornis africanus - MHNT
By Roger Culos - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Secondly the jacana, as a bird, lays eggs and eggs can be equally well incubated and cared for by a parent bird of either gender. This means that the rate-limiting factor of the jacana's breeding is the rate at which the males can raise and care for the chicks.

Such a system of females forming harems of males is in direct contrast to the more usual system of leks seen in animals such as stags and grouse, where the males compete and display in order to gain harems of females.

The parent that forms part of the harem is almost always the one that ends up caring for the offspring; in this case, each male jacana incubates and rears a nest of chicks. The male African jacana has therefore evolved some remarkable adaptations for parental care, such as the ability to pick up and carry chicks underneath its wings.

Length: 23 - 31 cm
Weight: 115-274 g
Distinctive Feature
Similar Species
Immature: is similar to adult Lesser Jacana, but much bigger; above light brown (dark brown in adult Lesser Jacana), below white; breast washed golden (no gold in adult Lesser Jacana); flanks brown; frontal shield small (not visible in field); crown and hind neck blackish brown (crown rufous in adult Lesser Jacana); black line through eye; buff eyebrow (eyebrow of adult Lesser Jacana white, forehead buff).

From opus at the forum for wild birds and birding.

Listen to the African Jacana

Remarks from the Recordist

Calls from one of a pair of birds interacting along the short of the lake.

Conservation status
Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sighted: (Date of first photo that I could use) 7 December 2019
Location: Lake Awassa, Ethiopia

African Jacana, Actophilornis africanus
African Jacana - 7 December 2019 - Lake Awassa, Ethiopia

African Jacana, Actophilornis africanus
African Jacana - 7 December 2019 - Lake Awassa, Ethiopia

PLEASE! If I have made any mistakes identifying any bird, PLEASE let me know on my guestbook



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