Comb Crested Jacana – a caring super dad

Comb Crested Jacana

The comb crested jacana (Irediparra gallinacea), also known as the lotusbird or lilytrotter, is a unique wading bird found primarily in the wetlands of Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Australia. This extraordinary bird is known for its distinct appearance and incredible ability to walk on floating vegetation.

This is my favourite bird. It is tiny, has long legs and beautiful red wattle (male). I love watching it when it walks slowly and deliberately, jumping from one lily pad to the other. Sometimes it flies low over the water.

What is really interesting – male takes care of little chicks and keeps them under his wings. When we were at Corroboree Billabong I was able to see it, what an amazing view! Small feet hanging on both sides of this little brave dad. 

The jacana’s long legs, wings and toes are useful for walking on water surface vegetation. There they probe for aquatic seeds and insects. 

If the bird is stressed the colour of its comb changes from red to yellow. 

When threatened by a predator they dive under the water and stay motionless with their bill and nostrils just out of the water.

Where spotted: Wyndham WA, Fog Dam & Darwin NT

Comb Crested Jacana – more information

Interesting Facts

  • The comb crested jacana has remarkably long toes and claws, which distribute its weight across a larger surface area. This adaptation allows the bird to walk on floating vegetation, such as lily pads and lotus leaves, without sinking.
  • The comb crested jacana is a striking bird with a vivid plumage. It has a black neck, chest, and head, contrasting with its brown wings and white underbelly. One of its most distinctive features is the bright red comb on its forehead, from which it gets its name.
  • These birds build their nests on floating vegetation, usually a collection of plant material anchored to the stems of aquatic plants. The nests provide a safe and secure environment for their eggs and chicks, protecting them from both aquatic and land-based predators.
  • The comb crested jacana exhibits a polyandrous mating system, in which one female mates with multiple males. The female lays eggs in the nests of her male partners, who then take on the responsibility of incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks.
  • The comb crested jacana is known to be fiercely territorial, defending its chosen patch of floating vegetation from intruders. They may use their sharp spurs, located on the bend of their wings, to fend off rivals or threats to their nests.
  • The comb crested jacana feeds on a diverse range of aquatic insects, small fish, seeds, and plant material. Its long legs and toes allow it to forage easily among floating vegetation, plucking its prey from the water’s surface or the undersides of leaves.
  • Although the comb crested jacana spends most of its time wading on floating vegetation, it is capable of flight. When disturbed or threatened, the bird will take to the air, revealing its striking white wing patches as it flies to safety.
  • Chicks are precocial, meaning they are relatively mature and mobile shortly after hatching. These adorable chicks can be seen following their father across floating vegetation as they learn to forage for food.
  • The comb crested jacana’s brown wings and back provide excellent camouflage, helping the bird blend in with its surroundings when it is resting among the aquatic plants. This natural camouflage offers protection from predators such as raptors or larger wading birds.
  • In regions with seasonal flooding, the comb crested jacana may migrate short distances to find suitable wetland habitats. These birds are highly adaptable and can thrive in various aquatic environments, including swamps, marshes, and even rice paddies.
  • The comb crested jacana has a range of vocalisations, including high-pitched peeping sounds and sharp, explosive calls. These vocalisations play an essential role in communication, especially during territorial disputes or when warning of potential danger.

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