Strolling on water shouldn’t be as arduous as you may think, so long as you could have the precise toes for the job. The African jacana (Actophilornis africana) has exceptionally lengthy toes, which unfold out to distribute its weight, permitting it to step out throughout the water’s floor. No marvel it’s nicknamed ‘Jesus chook’.
In reality, in fact, the jacana doesn’t stroll on the precise water however makes use of floating vegetation – selecting its approach confidently from stem to lily pad, usually with no seen help above the floor. Thus its various nickname of ‘lily-trotter’ is a extra apt description. And occasional sinking shouldn’t be an issue: jacanas swim effectively, and should plunge beneath the floor to flee a predator.
This moorhen-sized chook – one among eight species worldwide within the household Jacanidae – is a standard and conspicuous sight round wetlands throughout sub-Saharan Africa, unmistakable in its daring livery of chestnut, yellow, black and white. Though it resembles the skulking rails and gallinules of the Rallidae household, it’s extra intently associated to plovers and sandpipers. And, like a plover, it feeds by foraging for aquatic invertebrates akin to bugs and snails, usually lifting the sting of a lily to snap up any goodies beneath with fast stabs of its sharp, bright-blue invoice.
Throughout the build-up to the breeding season you’ll be able to’t miss jacanas. Any water physique taking part in host to those extremely aggressive birds seems to be in a state of pandemonium, as they pursue one another in relentless, squawking skirmishes, usually one shut behind the opposite in low, whirring flight, lengthy toes dangling simply above the floor. Seize a pair of binoculars and you’ll be richly entertained.
Behind these histrionics lies an intriguing intercourse life. The jacana is a uncommon instance of a polyandrous chook: one during which a single feminine breeds with a number of males. In truth, a feminine jacana (which is larger than a male) assembles a harem of as much as 4 consorts, and by breeding with every in flip produces a number of clutches – as much as eight or 9 in a single breeding season – with a mean of 4 eggs per clutch. Such prolific fecundity is important. Quite a few predators like nothing higher than to snack upon jacana eggs, so it permits them to interchange a misplaced clutch at brief discover.
With the feminine busy attracting suitors and laying eggs, parental duties are right down to the male. He incubates the clutch for 23–26 days, after which takes care of the chicks for one more 18 days after they hatch, sheltering them underneath his wings when needed (pictured above). The kids can discover their very own meals inside hours of hatching and may fly at 35–40 days.
This association could sound handy for the liberated feminine jacana. However although she could name the pictures, her life is one among fixed stress and strife, combating off rival females with designs on her harem and territory. Blessed are the peacemakers? Not for this Jesus chook.
To get one of the best out of your wildlife or safari expertise, Journey Africa encourages the usage of high quality binocular. To additional improve the expertise and seize nice reminiscences, take an iPhone adapter to attach your iPhone to your binocular.
This column is sponsored by Swarovski Optik, the premier vary of optics for wildlife in superb close-up. To see their full vary go to www.swarovskioptik.com
Mike Unwin is an award-winning journey author and creator who has an insatiable fascination with wildlife and animal behaviour.
READ MORE: See all of Mike Unwin’s Seeing is Believing articles right here: https://travelafricamag.com/class/blogs/mike-unwins-seeing-is-believing/