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There are eight species of this lively little lily-pad trotter, only one of which resides in the marshes, ponds and other waters of Belize. Also known as the Jesus Christ bird (for walking on water), Jacana's live wherever there is floating aquatic plants thrive.
The Northern Jacana is known by many of the locals as either the "Georgie Bull" or the "Jesus Christ" bird. It hops daintily from lily pad to lily pad with its long and spindly toes in search of water bugs, tiny fish, or small mollusks. It stalks the water hyacinth and steals its seeds.
This slender bird attains a top-to tail length of 9"-10". It is cinnamon red with a vivid yellow forehead shield on its black head and yellow-greenish patches on its wings. With neck extended and long legs dangling, as it flies it flashes the yellow under pinion of its rounded wings. As it alights, it stretches high its wings before folding them neatly behind its back, tucking in the spurs at the crook of its wings.
The inmature jacana is gray-brown above and whitish below, with a distinctive wide white stripe above the eye.
Jacana's are eminently noisy! Along with the Jacana's generally charming appearance goes a voice with many songs - most of them raucous. In argument with its fellows, it chatters and chuckles. In flight it makes a sharp cackle. It calls out with a single, rasping note or emits a plaintive whistle. In some respects, it resembles the sound of a portable typewriter.
The breeding season is April and May. As a nest, the Jacana uses a floating platform it has contrived of stems and reeds; upon this thin, flat, flimsy surface it lays as many as four eggs. Each spotted and speckled in excellent imitation of the next.
It is the male Jacana which does most of the egg-sitting (or babysitting), a matter of 22-24 days and, when the eggs have hatched, the male Jacana will continue baby-sitting, his little chicks.
Look for the Jacana, at the footbridge on Bird's Isle - here in Belize.