Queen of the jungle: The African Jacana vets and chooses its mates

Queen of the jungle: The African Jacana vets and chooses its mates

crested craneThe African Jacana lays eggs and leaves the male to hatch them as she looks for more suitors

They have huge grey feet and long claws which enable them to walk on floating leaves and water lily pads. They are good swimmers and divers. For your Uganda birding safari, you can find them in wetlands with open shallow waters, especially where there are water lilies.

The African Jacana (binomial name: Actophilornis africanus) has a chestnut body. Its neck and head are white in front and black at the back, with a golden yellow breast.

The male and female look alike, but the female is a bit larger. African Jacanas periodically shed off all their wing feathers and are then unable to fly until new feathers grow.

These birds have a polyandrous mating system. Females have multiple partners and no male feels jealous.

It is the female which vets and chooses its mates, so each male selected for the job feels honoured. But there is a price for the lucky males. After mating, the female lays eggs and leaves the nest to look for more mates.

The abandoned male has to incubate the eggs and raise the young ones.

Jacanas have many enemies. These include snakes, otters, mongooses and other birds which eat their eggs and chicks.

The survival of this species is largely dependent on the mother’s ability to lay several clutches of eggs (about 30) in one season with different males.

The African Jacana mainly feeds on insects, worms, spiders, crustaceans and rarely on seeds.