Lesser jacana

Lesser jacana
Microparra capensis

Photo by Paul Jones (Flickr)

Common name:
lesser jacana (en); jacana-pequena (pt); jacana nain (fr); jacana chica (es); zwergblatthühnchen (de)

Order Charadriiformes
Family Jacanidae

This species is patchily distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, from Mali and Côte d’Ivoire east to South Sudan and Ethiopia, through Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and into southern Angola, northern Namibia, northern Botswana, Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa.

These birds are 15-16 cm long and weigh about 40 g.

The lesser jacana is found in areas of shallow water around the edges of of permanent and seasonally flooded wetlands, including lakes, dams, flood plains, swampy river edges, coastal lagoons, grassy swamps and sometimes ponds. They favour areas of sparse sedge, aquatic grasses and stands of floating vegetation such as water-lilies.

They feed mainly on insects, but also take small pieces of aquatic vegetation.

The lesser jacana breeds during the local wet season. They are monogamous and nest in solitary pairs, with both sexes helping build the nest, a tiny floating stack of plant stems, typically placed alongside a grass or sedge tuft in shallow water. there the female lays 2-5 eggs which are incubated by both sexes for about 21 days. The chicks can leave the nest soon after hatching, but remain within 2 m of the nest in the first 3 days and wander increasingly far until they begin to fly, about 32 days after hatching. They become fully independent about 2 months after hatching.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding rang, but its small size and secretive habits contribute to uncertainties regarding their precise distribution and abundance. The population trend is also difficult to determine because of uncertainty over the impacts of habitat modification on population sizes.

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