Birda Logo
A photo of a Lesser Jacana (Microparra capensis)
Lesser Jacana

Lesser Jacana

Microparra capensis

The lesser jacana, a diminutive member of the Jacanidae family, stands at a mere 15-16 cm in height and tips the scales at around 41 grams. This species boasts a striking plumage with a white underbelly, a golden forehead, a cinnamon-hued crown, and a pronounced dark eyestripe. Its mantle and wings are cloaked in darker shades, setting it apart from its kin. The long legs and claws of the lesser jacana are marvelously adapted for a life spent treading upon the floating vegetation of its aquatic realm, earning it the enchanting nicknames of 'lily trotter' or 'Jesus bird'.

Identification Tips

In the field, the lesser jacana is more readily identified in flight, where its elongated legs trail behind and its wings reveal a distinctive white trailing edge. While it exhibits minimal sexual dimorphism, the female is generally 4% larger than the male, and males may present with darker backs compared to their female counterparts.


The lesser jacana frequents the shorelines of both permanent and seasonally flooded wetlands across Africa, favoring areas with a sparse yet abundant mix of sedge and grass over water lilies. These birds adeptly use aquatic vegetation for concealment, often rendering them inconspicuous to the casual observer.


This species has a broad African distribution, spanning Angola to Zimbabwe, including Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.


The lesser jacana is a nimble forager, adept at gleaning insects from emergent vegetation as it deftly maneuvers across lily pads and grass stems. It employs a variety of techniques, from pecking at insects on plants to swimming at the water's surface in pursuit of its prey.

Song & Calls

The lesser jacana is known for its repertoire of five distinct vocalizations, including a distress call of "hwi hwi hwi" when its offspring are threatened, a melodic "woot" common to both sexes, a peeving "see sree shrrr," a soft "tchr tchr tchr," and a repeated "ti" or "hli" sound. These calls are often echoed or synchronized between mates, particularly in the lead-up to copulation.


In a departure from the polyandrous tendencies of its relatives, the lesser jacana practices biparental care, with both parents sharing the responsibilities of nest-building and incubation. The species is observed to be monogamous, with copulation lasting a brief 7 seconds, reflecting reduced sperm competition. Their floating nests house two or three tan-colored eggs with black markings, which are incubated for 19-21 days. Upon hatching, the chicks are brooded under the wings of their parents, who will transport them to safety if danger looms.

Similar Species

The lesser jacana's eggs are reminiscent of those laid by the African jacana but are notably smaller. Juvenile African jacanas bear a resemblance to adult lesser jacanas, and the two species may be confused where their ranges overlap in Southern Africa.

Diet and Feeding

The lesser jacana's diet consists primarily of insects, which it forages from the surrounding aquatic vegetation. It has been observed employing various methods to secure its meals, including lifting submerged stems with its bill and swimming to catch insects at the water's surface.

Conservation status

The lesser jacana is currently classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that, for now, this species does not face an immediate threat of extinction.

App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Lesser Jacanas on Birda


More Jacanas

A photo of a African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus)

African Jacana

Actophilornis africanus
Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Safira V
Birding and wellbeing app
Birda is an excellent platform to share your love of Birding and is a great tool of encouragement for a Birding Beginner like me. Birda has a very kind and supportive community of Birding enthusiasts. For me BIRDA is not only a BIRDING but also a WELLBEING App.
Fantastic app - Love it!
Love this app and have used it almost daily. Lots of species information and easy to use. Love seeing birds spotted by other users in the UK and worldwide.
Ideal Birdwatch Companion
Simply adds to the enjoyment of my birdwatching and helps me record what I’ve seen.
Just what birding needs
We need more fun in birding, for years it has had a reputation for being up tight and stuffy and only perused by retirees and anoraks. Birda helps change that perception and firmly brings birding into the 21st century! Fun, interactive while still contributing to science and conservation. If you aren’t on it, why not??
Jane N
A great app
Enjoying it immensely and finding it useful too. Recording the different birds and counting them is showing me how the present climate is affecting them all. I've trebled the numbers by planting native hedging. A great app.
Great App
Great app to use for logging and communicating with others who are interested in birds
Carl B
Helped me to identify more birds
Love this app and has helped me to identify more birds. The challenges and badges are great for keeping the motivation going to get out and keep birding.
Amylia S
Best app for any birding person!
I love this app!! I am so addicted to it when I saw it had 3 star review I was so sad! The app is awesome!! The best app for any birding person! ❤️
A Friendly Place
I love using the bird app, I have a pretty good knowledge of birds. But I do have some gaps in it, so it’s nice to have a safe space to check on a sighting to confirm the species. It’s really enjoyable and I love the badges you can collect. It’s like a real life Pokémon go.
Robred 2
Fun way to add to your birdwatching experience
I enjoy watching birds in my backyard, but this app helped me really pay attention while on vacation this summer. It was fun to add new birds to my bird watching app.
As featured in
Connect with nature,
Find your flock
Download Birda - QR Code
© 2024 All rights reserved