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The strange wading birds known as jacanas are nick-named "lily-trotters" for their ability to walk on lily pads. 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 the only cool thing about jacanas. The males, including the Comb-crested Jacana pictured here, can carry their young under their wings. Picture this colorful wading bird, crouching down and spreading his wings. The young scoot in under him, and he sweeps them up and carries them off, tiny legs dangling from under his wings. Check out the video!
Listen to this episode in Spanish here.
Lily-Trotters, Jesus Birds
Written by Ellen Blackstone
This is BirdNote.
[Northern Jacana calls]
The Northern Jacana, 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 lily pads. 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.
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 house cat – 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.
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.
Don't believe it? We'll show you a video. Begin on our website, BirdNote.org. I'm Michael Stein.
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 2018/2020/2022 March 2024 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# jacana-01-2015-02-09 jacana-01