Northern Jacana

Jacana spinosa




Jacanas (Jacanidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Brown with black streaks

Number of Eggs:

3 - 5

Incubation Days:

22 - 24

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

Floating marsh vegetation

Nest Material:

Wet marsh vegetation





Northern Jacana: Rail-like relative of plovers and shorebirds; is unique in having extremely long toes. Body is chestnut-brown with black head and neck, and flashy yellow-green flight feathers. Forehead has a fleshy orange-yellow frontal shield arising from base of bill. Sexes are similar, but female is slightly larger. Juvenile is gray-brown above with black on back of neck and crown, and has all white underparts.

Range and Habitat

Northern Jacana: Occurs in coastal regions from southern Texas to Mexico, throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, and are also found in Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola. They prefer marshes, and ponds with heavy growth of lily pads and other floating plants, but may be found near flooded fields and near other slow-moving waters.

Breeding and Nesting

Northern Jacana: Lays three to five brown eggs with black streaks in a nest made of floating marsh plants, built up just enough to keep the eggs from drowning. Male incubates eggs for 22 to 24 days, and then tends precocial young; female mates with several males each season.

Foraging and Feeding

Northern Jacana: Feeds almost exclusively on insects, but will occasionally take fish. Forages on top of floating vegetation, using its long toes for support while walking; moves rapidly and erratically while gleaning insects from vegetation.


Northern Jacana: Makes loud, harsh "jik" notes that may accelerate into chatter.

Similar Species

Northern Jacana: Unlikely to be confused with any other species in its range.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

The crown is the top part of the birds head.
Flight feathersX
Located on the wing, and collectively called remiges (singular, remex). The long stiff feathers are subdivided into two major groups based on the location and are called primaries and secondaries.
Frontal shieldX
The area where the bill extends onto the forehead of the bird. It is often brightly colored and is meant to grab the attention of other birds.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X