by Mina Arnold Young
This bird has several nicknames. It is called "lily trotter," "lotus bird," and "water walker." We might want to add another, "wire toes." Why would a bird have such funny looking feet? If he walked on land those long toes would get in the way. But the jacana walks on water lily pads and other plants that grow in the water. The long toes hold him up, like snowshoes hold up a person who is walking on soft snow. These birds can fly but do not do so very often. When they land they always flip up their wings. No one knows why.
These birds live on the surface of ponds where water lilies and other plants grow. They eat some plant food as well as the little water animals and insect larva that fasten themselves to plant stems and the under side of lily pads. They always seem hungry.
Jacanas live in warm countries, such as southern Africa and parts of Asia and Australia. One variety may be found from the southern part of Texas to as far south as Argentina.
Most jacanas have very short tails but there is an oriental jacana, called the "surgeon bird," that has a long tail like a pheasant. The male of another variety, which lives in India and the Philippines, grows a long tail of curving black feathers just before the mating season. Anyone seeing him at that time might mistake him for a different kind of bird. He and his mate would look like a mismatched pair.
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