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Species Guide
A photo of a African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus)
African Jacana

African Jacana

Actophilornis africanus

The African Jacana, Actophilornis africanus, is a distinctive wader known for its remarkable ability to traverse floating vegetation with its elongated toes and claws. This bird exhibits a striking chestnut plumage on its upperparts, complemented by black wingtips, rear neck, and an eyestripe. Adults boast a chestnut underpart, while juveniles display a white underpart with a chestnut belly patch. A blue bill, extending into a coot-like head shield, and grey legs and toes complete its unique appearance.

Identification Tips

To identify the African Jacana, look for its long toes and claws, which are adapted for walking on lily pads and other floating vegetation. The adult's chestnut underparts contrast with the juveniles' white underparts and chestnut belly patch. The blue bill with a frontal shield and the bird's size, ranging from 23 to 31 cm in length, are also key identification features.


The African Jacana thrives in shallow lakes, where it can be seen gracefully walking on floating vegetation, a habitat it prefers and is uniquely adapted to inhabit.


This species enjoys a wide distribution across sub-Saharan Africa, where it is commonly found in suitable wetland habitats.


The African Jacana is sedentary, with some seasonal dispersion. It exhibits a polyandrous mating system, where a dominant female mates with multiple males. The males are solely responsible for incubating the eggs and rearing the chicks, showcasing remarkable adaptations for parental care, such as the ability to carry chicks under their wings.


Breeding occurs throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The African Jacana lays four brown eggs marked with black, in a nest that floats amidst the vegetation. The male takes on the role of incubating the eggs and caring for the young, a testament to the species' unique breeding system.

Similar Species

The African Jacana might be confused with the Madagascar Jacana, which is similar in size. However, the latter is geographically isolated to Madagascar, reducing the likelihood of confusion within the African Jacana's range.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists primarily of insects and other invertebrates, which the African Jacana deftly picks from the water's surface or from the floating vegetation it frequents.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the African Jacana as Least Concern, indicating that, currently, there are no immediate threats to its population levels.

African Jacana Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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African Jacana Fun Facts

Did you know?
African Jacana's enormous feet help to spread their weight allowing them to walk on floating vegatation.

African Jacanas on Birda


More Jacanas

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