jaçana (jəkănˈə, jəkänˈə) [key], common name for members of the Jacanidae, a family of tropical and subtropical wading birds. Jaçanas, also called lily-trotters and lotus-birds, have long toes and toenails that enable them to walk delicately on floating vegetation as they search for insects and mollusks. Like certain of the related plovers, jaçanas have defensive spurs on the angles of their wings. The American jaçana (10 in./25 cm long), Jacana spinosa, is cinnamon red with striking yellow-green wing patches. The female jaçana is slightly larger than the male, but has similar coloration. It lays about 4 eggs per clutch, which is incubated by the male for three to four weeks. Jaçanas are excellent swimmers and divers and build their nests to float on water. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Charadriiformes, family Jacanidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.