Pheasant-tailed jacana

   ›      ›   Pheasant-tailed jacana - Hydrophasianus chirurgus

The pheasant-tailed jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) is a wader belonging to the family of jacanas, Jacanidae.

The pheasant-tailed jacana species are distributed in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Taiwan and Oman. These jacana species have long legs and toes, an adaptation for the life on floating vegetation. These jacanas are monotypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Pheasant-tailed Jacana Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The pheasant-tailed jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) is the only jacana with breeding plumage. In breeding plumage it measures 40 to 60 cm in length, including its 25 to 35 cm tail. The female is slightly larger and weighs 190 to 230 grams whereas the male weighs 120 to 140 grams.

In breeding pheasant-tailed jacana, the body is blackish and the tail is long. The head is white with a black patch on the rear crown, which varies in size. A narrow black necklace line from the upper nape extends down to the upper breast, separating white front of the neck from the glossy golden rear neck.

The upperparts and lowerparts of pheasant-tailed jacana are blackish chocolate brown, with green or purple lustre. Except for the brown tertials, black tips of outermost secondaries and primaries and the black edges of three outer primaries, the wings are white. The tips of the outer primaries are elongated.

The tail of pheasant-tailed jacana is blackish and the two central pair of feathers are stiff, slightly down-curved and elongated. The bill is slender and is slaty-blue with yellow tip. The legs and toes are very long and are pale bluish gray. The breeding birds call is a mewing "m-e-e-ou" sound.

In non-breeding pheasant-tailed jacana, the upperparts are pale greenish brown and the underparts are white. The crown becomes blackish, the rear neck becomes brown and the golden area is reduced to a few patches.

A brownish black line from the lore region passes through the eyes, down the sides of the neck to join on the upper breast. The non-breeding jacana tail is shorter and white with greenish brown central feathers. The legs and toes are greenish-bluish.
Indian birds - Picture of Pheasant-tailed jacana - Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Birds of India - Image of Pheasant-tailed jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus by Ramjeesk

Birds of India - Photo of Pheasant-tailed jacana - Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Indian birds - Picture of Pheasant-tailed jacana - Hydrophasianus chirurgus by Karunakanth

Indian birds - Image of Pheasant-tailed jacana - Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Birds of India - Photo of Pheasant-tailed jacana - Hydrophasianus chirurgus by Karunakanth

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The pheasant-tailed jacana species are distributed in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, China, Japan, Taiwan and Oman.

Vagrant pheasant-tailed jacana have been observed in Yemen, Qatar, Afghanistan and Australia. The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of these jacana species in Bangladesh are Tanguar Haor and Panabeel.

Ecosystem and habitat

These pheasant-tailed jacana species do not normally occur in forests. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 3000 meters.

The natural ecosystems of these pheasant-tailed jacana species include wetlands like freshwater lakes, marshes, pools, ponds, swamps, peatlands and flooded grasslands.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these pheasant-tailed jacana species is mostly insects. Floating insects, small molluscs and probably plant seeds are their primary food. They forage by walk over the floating vegetation or by swimming.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these pheasant-tailed jacana species is mainly in summer from March to July. The breeding season in South India coincides with the monsoon rains. In Sri Lanka, the laying season is from January.

These pheasant-tailed jacanas are polyandrous. They breed in freshwater lakes and ponds with emergent and floating vegetation. The nest is built with plant material. It may rest and float on water.

In one breeding season, a pheasant-tailed jacana female may lay up to ten clutches, to be incubated by several different males. The female pairs up and presents a clutch of 4 eggs to a male. A few days later the female pairs up with another male.

The brooding male pheasant-tailed jacana supporting itself with wings, scoops the eggs and keeps them warm between its breast and the underside of wings. If the nest is threatened by predator, rains or flood, the male may build another nest and move the eggs by carrying them one by one, wedged between the breast and bill.

Migration and movement patterns

The pheasant-tailed jacana species are partially migrant birds. The northern populations (China and Himalayas) of jacana migrate southwards for wintering. They move to southern Thailand, Malay peninsula, Sumatra, southeast and northeast india and Oman. The birds in higher altitudes may move to lower altitudes in winter.

The pheasant-tailed jacana populations in Sri Lanka, Philippines, central and northwest India, Myanmar, southern Pakistan, north Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Taiwan are resident.

Post breeding, the pheasant-tailed jacana juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range. These jacana species also move in response to floods and drought.

Pheasant-tailed jacana - Overview

  • Scientific name: Hydrophasianus chirurgus
  • Species author: (Scopoli, 1786)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Tringa Chirurgus Scopoli, 1786
  • Family: Jacanidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Pheasant-tailed jacana, Chinese: 水雉, French: Jacana à longue queue, German: Wasserfasan, Spanish: Jacana colilarga, Russian: Водяной фазанчик, Japanese: レンカク, Malay: Burung Teratai Besar
  • Other names: Waterpheasant
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Taiwan, Oman
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, invertebrates
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the pheasant-tailed jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) is estimated to be more than 100,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these jacana species is considered to be decreasing. Throughout its range it is reported to be locally common. The generation length is 4.8 years. Its distribution size is about 19,700,000

The pheasant-tailed jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion or under the population trend criterion, or under the population size criterion. The ongoing habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these pheasant-tailed jacana species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the jacana species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the pheasant-tailed jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Hydrophasianus chirurgus
Species:H. chirurgus
Binomial name:Hydrophasianus chirurgus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Ramjeesk | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
2.Image source:*.jpg (cropped)
Image author: Karunakanth | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
3.Image source:**.jpg (cropped)
Image author: Karunakanth | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
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