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BirdNote®: Lily-Trotters, Jesus Birds

Air Date: Week of

An African jacana appears to walk on water with the aid of lily pads and its long toes. (Photo: zsispeo, CC)

The strange wading birds known as jacanas are nick-named "lily-trotters" for their ability to walk on lilypads. In Jamaica, they're known as "Jesus birds," because they appear to be walking on water — a feat made possible by their long toes. But that's not all that's cool about jacanas, and BirdNote’s Michael Stein tells us more.



BASCOMB: Here’s this week’s BirdNote with Michael Stein.

Jacana - Lily-trotter
[Northern Jacana calls, LNS # 140224]

STEIN: The Northern Jacana (for information about pronunciation, please see below*), found in Mexico, Central and South America, and Cuba. And the bird with the longest toes -- relative to its body size -- of any bird. Those toes are l-o-n-g, and they're made for walkin'. Living in wetlands, Jacanas are nicknamed "lily-trotters," for their ability to walk on lilypads. In Jamaica, they're known as "Jesus birds," because it looks as if they're walking on water. Feats possible only because of those toes. [LNS #140224 2:40 and 3:14]

But that's not all that's cool about the jacana. The males carry their young under their wings. Now, you've seen a mother housecat -- kitten dangling from her mouth -- carrying kittens one by one to safety. Well, the male jacana will carry his young, too – except that he can carry several at once. [Northern Jacana LNS # 140224]

An immature wattled jacana stretches its wings (Photo: © Dory Hamlyn)

So picture this wildly colorful wading bird, crouching down and spreading his wings. The young move in under him, and he sweeps them up and carries them off, tiny legs dangling from under his wings. It doesn't look very comfortable for the young ones, but it sure is safe. [Northern Jacana LNS # 140224]
I’m Michael Stein.

[Northern Jacana LNS # 140224]

Written by Ellen Blackstone
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Jacana recorded by Gerrit Vyn
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org February 2018 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# jacana-01-2015-02-09 jacana-01
* "Jacana" seems to be pronounced in many different ways. Julie Zickefoose in her blog says the pronunciation of "jacana" in the Tupi Indian language is zhuh-sah-NAH, with the emphasis on the last syllable. However, the Cornell recordist of the Northern Jacana heard in this show, Gerrit Vyn, says juh-CAH-nuh, so in this case, we went with that. (Listen here: http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/140224) For a pronunciation in Brazilian Portuguese, check out Forvo.com: http://www.forvo.com/word/ja%C3%A7an%C3%A3/#pt



Watch a Jacana carrying its young

This story on the BirdNote website


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