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Jacanas: Jacanidae

Physical Characteristics

Jacanas (juh-KAH-nuhz) vary from about 6 to 23 inches (15 to 58 centimeters) in length and from 1.4 to 9.7 ounces (40 to 275 grams) in weight. Jacanas have long, slender necks and extremely long toes and claws, as long as 4 inches (10.2 centimeters) in certain species. Their large feet allow them to balance on and move over lily pads and other floating vegetation, a practice that has given the jacana nicknames such as "lily trotters" and "Jesus birds." Jacanas also have bony spurs that jut out from their wings. These are used in battles with other jacanas, as well as to defend individuals from potential predators, animals that hunt them for food. Jacanas are unusual among birds in that the females are larger than the males, weighing, in some cases, as much as 60 percent more.

Jacanas are generally black or reddish brown in color. Most species have very bright wings and will sometimes spread their wings suddenly to frighten off potential predators. Jacanas also have bright patches of feathers on their foreheads. Male and female jacanas have similar coloration. Young jacanas, however, generally have brown backs and pale bellies, colors that allow them to blend into their environments well. Chicks develop adult coloration after about a year.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsJacanas: Jacanidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Pheasant-tailed Jacana (hydrophasianus Chirurgus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, JACANAS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS