Joanna Van Gruisen

 

Pheasant-tailed Jacana © Joanna Van Gruisen

Pheasant-tailed Jacana
(Hydrophasianus chirurgus)

 

 

Image details
1/250 sec, f8/5.6;  Kodachrome 64
Nikon F3 with Novoflex 400mm
Location: Kumana Villu, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Date:
March 1981

Shoot details
Who would have thought a bird could actually carry an egg in its beak! This male jacana appeared not to appreciate his mate’s choice of nest location or perhaps he was aware that he had had too small a share of the copulations to be confidant that the eggs contained his offspring. He flew with it a short distance before dropping it into the lake. He did this a couple more times with the next eggs laid, then encouraged the female to a new site a few feet from the original nest; she laid four more eggs there which the male incubated until the chicks hatched. We observed all this from a 4 x 4 water level platform hide erected in the lake in which we sat day after day (for more than a month), documenting the full nesting cycle of the jacana. We had to wade out to these hides through lotus and other view-obscuring plants in thigh-deep water that was also home to at least 100 mugger crocodiles! I would comfort myself with the thought that crocodiles find it difficult to attack the vertical (I hoped).

Species details
Jacanas are waders found across the tropics. Often called 'Lily trotters' because of their habit of walking on floating vegetation, the females of this family are polyandrous. Pictured here is the 31cm male in breeding plumage. In non-breeding plumage the species loses its long tail and gets white underparts.

A Birds of India presentation

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