African Jacana

(Actophilornis africanus)




Facts about this animal

23-31 cm. The male averages c.137 g, female 261 g.The most conspicuous characteristic of these birds are their huge, grey feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation, especially lily pads. They are also very good swimmers and divers. The African jacana has a chestnut body, and its neck and head are white in front and black in back, with a golden yellow breast. The African Jacana has a bright blue frontal shield, which is a bare, fleshy area that extends from the bill to as far as the top of the head. The sexes look alike, but the female is a bit larger than the male.

African jacanas moult all their flight-feathers simultaneously and are flightless during this period.

The African jacana is not migratory, but extremely nomadic, often in connection with changing waterlevels; in wet years, birds may show up on pans, from which the species has been absent for several years.

The African jacana mainly feeds on insects and worms, but also other arthropods, including spiders and crustaceans, and molluscs. Seeds are sometimes taken. Foraging similar to the Wattled jacana, though the species may also catch flies and other flying insects.

Did you know?
African Jacana have a polyandrous mating system, in which females can have multiple male partners. After mating and egg laying, the female leaves the nest site and may look for another mate while the male incubates and raises the young.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Actophilornis africanus
Name (English) African Jacana
Name (French) Jacana à poitrine dorée
Name (German) Afrikanisches Blätterhühnchen
Name (Spanish) Jacana africana
Local names Afrikaans: Langtoon
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Chris Eason



Range Africa, south of the Sahara desert: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad Congo, Congo Dem., Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Habitat Permanent and seasonally flooded shallow frehwater wetlands, especially swamps and backwaters of slow-flowing rivers. Restricted to floating vegetation especially water-lilies, and floating water-emergent vegetation, which provides more cover but does not appear to reduce predation. Seeks shelter in taller emergent vegetation near shore, but does not use this for nesting in.
Wild population Total regarded as a minimum by Wetlands International (2006) (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 45 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

African Jacana


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 11G of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Su Neko

Why do zoos keep this animal

This species is not threatened in the wild. Zoos keep it primarily for educational purposes because of its adaptation to floating vegetation and its interesting reproductive behaviour, and as an ambassador species for wetland conservation. Provided there is adequate space, it is a suitable species for mixed walk-thru exhibits.