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What bird has the longest toes relative to body length?

The Northern Jacana has the longest toes relative to body length at 10cm or 4 in.

The Northern Jacana - Jacana spinosa - is a Mexican and Central American species. Eight species of Jaçana are known from six genera. Jacanas are a group of wetland birds, which are identifiable by their huge feet, which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in the shallow lakes that are their preferred habitat. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone.

The African Jacana - Actophilornis Africana – are conspicuous and unmistakable birds and are found in sub-Saharan Africa. In Southern Africa it is locally abundant in northern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and eastern South Africa, while more scarce elsewhere in Namibia and South Africa.


Females are larger than the males. They have chestnut upperparts with black wingtips, rear neck and eye stripe. The underparts are white, with a chestnut belly patch in adult birds. The blue bill extends up as a Coot-like head shield and the legs and very long toes are grey.


Jacanas are quite vocal, the call being a screeching “kooworr” as well as a variety of other sounds.


It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging on floating vegetation, walking or running with its large feet while plucking prey from plants and the water surface.


Sequentially polyandrous, meaning that one female mates with multiple males over the course of one breeding season. It is highly territorial, as males fight each other for control of prime breeding territory, displaying and calling from a calling post made by pulling a few plant stems together. Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from November-March. The female lays four black-marked brown eggs in a floating nest. The male alone cares for the chicks. The male African Jacana has the ability to pick up and carry his chicks underneath his wings as well, a remarkable adaptation for parental care.

Conservation status – Least Concern

Not threatened, as its distribution has remained largely unchanged for the past century.

Bird watching

These striking birds can be seen on the following Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures: -

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North East Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North West Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

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