Ian’s Bird of the Week – Comb-crested Jacana

Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

Here’s another surprising omission from the bird of the week list: the Comb-crested Jacana – at least I can’t find any record of one going back to at least November 2004. Surprising for a variety of reasons including they’re a characteristic bird of wetlands of northern Australia, they’re fascinating birds and they are very photogenic, particular when they pose, as they often seem to, alongside waterlilies like the one in the first photo. I’ve had a couple of queries from list members about saving images since I started embedding images in rather than attaching them to the bird of the week. You should be able to save each image by right-clicking (Windows) or Control-clicking (Apple) on the image and following the prompt for ‘Save as ‘ or equivalent.

 
Jacanas are often called Lily-trotters or Lotusbirds, reflecting their ability to walk around on aquatic vegetation, or rather live on it as they do almost everything on floating vegetation including nesting. They are adapted to do this with their extraordinarily long toes which spread their weight over a large area. The second photo shows this better than the first.
 
Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

It must be wonderful to walk on water but such large feet must get in the way at times, when mating for example, and the third photo probably proves the point.
 
Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

Remember that I said that they do almost everything on floating vegetation. The male is struggling to keep his balance and the female looks in danger of drowning. Which brings us to another fact: the males are much smaller than the females, which seems sensible in the circumstances. I had assumed that the reason for this was another interesting fact: Jacanas have a change in sex roles and the female displays to the male while the male incubates the eggs and looks after the young after hatching. The fourth photos shows 4 Jacana chicks very reluctantly following Dad (out of the picture) across an open area of water.
 
Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

The young, like those of plovers and typical waders, show considerable independence soon after hatching and quickly learn to look after themselves, like the juvenile bird in the fifth photo.
 
Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) by Ian

The Comb-crested Jacana has a tropical and sub-tropical distribution in Australia and is found from the Kimberley region of Western Australia through the top-end of the Northern Territory, northern and eastern Queensland as far south as the Hunter River in New South Wales. It is one of a small family of 8 species, the Jacanidae http://www.birdway.com.au/jacanidae/index.htm , found in warmer regions around the world. Their closest relatives are the 3 species of Painted Snipe, the Rostratulidae http://www.birdway.com.au/rostratulidae/index.htm and, with them, are included in the order Charadriiformes which contains various other wading families such as the plovers (Charadriidae http://www.birdway.com.au/charadriidae/index.htm ) and the typical waders (Scolopacidae http://www.birdway.com.au/scolopacidae/index.htm ).
 
The digital Pizzey and Knight project is progressing well with the sourcing of more than 3,000 photos of nearly 700 Australian species. I have redone the wanted list to specify exactly which species (170) and which plumages (160 species) are still outstanding.
 
Best wishes
Ian

Lee’s Addition:

What a neat bird.

See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week articles

Jacanidae – Jacanas Family

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