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Quick Facts
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Jacanidae
Genus: Actophilornis
Species: africana

Length: 10 - 12 inches
Offspring: 2 - 4

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African Jacana

Actophilornis africana

Also Called: Lily walker or Lily-trotter


The female African Jacana is slightly larger than the male although the color of the feathers are very much the same between males and females. Their dramatic markings include dark, chestnut brown feathers at their wings, and yellow-orange breast feathers. The front of the neck is white and the back of the neck and head is glossy black. The bill is bluish-gray, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and toes are long in relation to the bird’s body size. Their eggs are very distinguished looking. They are brown in color, glossy, with black scribble-like markings.


These birds eat insects, aquatic larvae, small crabs, snails, and seeds.


They are found throughout Zimbabwe, Mozambique, northern Namibia, northern Botswana, and eastern South Africa. They prefer lagoons, stagnant pools, weed-fringed dams, swamps, and calm rivers, where there are lily pads and other types of floating vegetation.


Snakes, otters, water mongooses and other birds are predatorsWhat does predators mean? of the African Jacana’s eggs. Since African Jacana’s eggs and young chicks are often preyed upon, the survival of this species is largely dependent on the mother’s ability to lay several clutches of eggs in one season.


African Jacanas are sociable birds, often gathering together near swamp-like habitats. Aggressive behavior among same-sexed birds begins at the end of winter and intensifies before the (November – March) mating season. African Jacanas are not known to be monogomous in their mating patterns. A mating pair can have up to 30 clutches of eggs each season, resulting from either the same partner or various partners. The female African Jacana is more dominant than her male counterpart. Females are twice as large as males and can be very picky about who they choose as a mate. The female African Jacanas does not generally choose the same male partner for every clutch of eggs that she lays. This species of birds are known as ‘lily walkers’ because their slender legs and toes give them the gracefulness to walk on the lily pads that blanket their wetlands. Due to their smaller size, males are more graceful ‘lily walkers’ than females.


The female African Jacana lays several clutches of eggs between December and April, The clutches may be from a variety of mates or only one mate, depending on the circumstances. The male African Jacana is the main caretaker of the offspring, incubating the eggs and carrying the baby chicks under his wings to keep them warm and dry until the chicks are approximately 18 days old.


These graceful birds are good divers and strong flyers. They squawk during flight and carry a pitch that resembles a loud, mournful, whining sound. Like most birds, the African Jacana has a keen sense of sight and hearing and relies little on its sense of smell.

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