Comb-crested Jaçana (Irediparra gallinacea)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Aequorlitornithes
Order: Charadriiformes
Suborder: Limicoli
Family: Jacanidae
Stejneger, 1885

The jaçanas (sometimes referred to as Jesus birds or lily trotters) are a group of tropical waders in the family Jacanidae. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone. See Etymology below for pronunciation.

Eight species of jaçana are known from six genera. The fossil record of this family is restricted to a recent fossil of the Wattled Jaçana from Brazil and an Pliocene fossil of an extinct species, Jacana farrandi, from Florida.[1] A fossil from Miocene rocks in the Czech Republic was assigned to this family,[2] but more recent analysis disputes the placement and moves the species to the Coraciidae.[3]

They are identifiable by their huge feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in the shallow lakes that are their preferred habitat. They have sharp bills and rounded wings, and many species also have wattles on their foreheads.[4]

The females are larger than the males; the latter, as in some other wader families like the phalaropes, take responsibility for incubation, and some species (notably the Northern Jaçana) are polyandrous.[5] However, adults of both sexes look identical, as with most shorebirds. They construct relatively flimsy nests on floating vegetation, and lay eggs with dark irregular lines on their shells, providing camouflage amongst water weeds.[4]

Their diet consists of insects and other invertebrates picked from the floating vegetation or the water’s surface.

Most species are sedentary, but the Pheasant-tailed Jaçana migrates from the north of its range into peninsular India and southeast Asia.

Etymology and Pronunciation

Jacana is Linnæus' scientific Latin spelling of the Brazilian Portuguese jaçanã, which is from a Tupi name of the bird.

The Portuguese word is pronounced approximately Template:IPA-pt. As in façade, Provençal, and araçari, the Ç is meant to be pronounced as an S. US dictionaries give various pronunciations: Template:IPA-en ZHAH-sə-NAH,[6][7] /ˌdʒɑːsəˈnɑː/ JAH-sə-NAH,[7] as well as the anglicised Template:IPA-en jə-KAH-nə,[8] which is the only pronunciation in an Australian dictionary.[9] A British dictionary gives Template:IPA-en JAK-ə-nə for the spelling "jacana" and /ʒæsəˈnɑː/ zhas-ə-NAH for "jaçana".[10]


File:Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) in Hyderabad W2 IMG 8384.jpg
File:Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) toes W2 IMG 8525.jpg



  1. ^ Olson, Storrs, (1976). "A jacana from the Pliocene of Florida (Aves: Jacanidae)" (PDF). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 89 (19): 259–264. 
  2. ^ Mlíkovský, Jiří (1999). "A new jacana (Aves: Jacanidae) from the Early Miocene of the Czech Republic". Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences - Series IIA - Earth and Planetary Science. 328 (2): 121–123. doi:10.1016/S1251-8050(99)80007-X. 
  3. ^ Mourer-Chauviré, Cécile (1999). "Systematic position of Nupharanassa bohemica Mlíkovsky, 1999". Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences - Series IIA - Earth and Planetary Science. 329 (2): 149–152. doi:10.1016/S1251-8050(99)80217-1. 
  4. ^ a b Harrison, Colin J.O. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. p. 108. ISBN 1-85391-186-0. 
  5. ^ Jenni, Donald A.; Gerald Collier (1972). "Polyandry in the American Jaçana (Jacana spinosa)". The Auk. 89 (4): 743–765.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  6. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary" (Fourth ed.). 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  7. ^ a b " Unabridged. Based on the Random House Dictionary". 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  8. ^ "jacana - definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  9. ^ "The Macquarie Dictionary Online". Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd. 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-13. . Subscription required.
  10. ^ "The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary". Clarendon Press. 1993. 

External links

Sterna diversity This article is part of Project Bird Families, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each bird family, including made-up families.
Hemipus picatus This article is part of Project Bird Taxonomy, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on every order, family and other taxonomic rank related to birds.
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