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Temporal range: Pliocene to recent
Irediparra gallinacea - Comb-crested Jacana.jpg
Comb-crested jacana (Irediparra gallinacea)
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Suborder: Thinocori
Family: Jacanidae
Stejneger, 1885

The jacanas (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 and pronunciation below for pronunciation.

Eight species of jacana are known from six genera. The fossil record of this family is restricted to a recent fossil of the wattled jacana from Brazil and a 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]

In terms of sexual size dimorphism, female jacanas 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 jacana) 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 jacana migrates from the north of its range into peninsular India and southeast Asia.

Etymology and pronunciation[edit]

Jacana is Linnæus' scientific Latin spelling of the Brazilian Portuguese jaçanã. That is from a Tupi name of the bird, ñaha'nã.[6]

The Portuguese word is pronounced approximately [ʒasaˈnã]. As in façade, Provençal, and araçari, the Ç is meant to be pronounced as an S. US dictionaries give various pronunciations: /ˌʒɑːsəˈnɑː/ ZHAH-sə-NAH,[7][8] /ˌɑːsəˈnɑː/ JAH-sə-NAH,[8] as well as the anglicised /əˈkɑːnə/ jə-KAH-nə,[9] which is the only pronunciation in an Australian dictionary.[10] A British dictionary gives /ˈækənə/ JAK-ə-nə for the spelling "jacana" and /ʒæsəˈnɑː/ zhas-ə-NAH for "jaçana".[11]





  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, Série IIA. 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, Série IIA. 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. doi:10.2307/4084107.
  6. ^ Ferreira, A. B. H. (1986). Novo Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa (Second ed.). Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira. p. 978.
  7. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary" (Fourth ed.). 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
  8. ^ a b "dictionary.com Unabridged. Based on the Random House Dictionary". 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
  9. ^ "jacana – definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Retrieved 2009-08-13.
  10. ^ "The Macquarie Dictionary Online". Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd. 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-13.. Subscription required.
  11. ^ The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Clarendon Press. 1993. and "Definition of jacana in English". Language Matters. Oxford Dictionaries.

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