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Microparra capensis (Lesser jacana) 

Dwerglangtoon [Afrikaans]; Nkongoro gwakambatu [Kwangali]; Dwergjacana [Dutch]; Jacana nain [French]; Zwergblatthühnchen [German]; Jacana-pequena [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Jacanidae

Microparra capensis (Lesser jacana)  Microparra capensis (Lesser jacana) 
Lesser jacana. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Lesser jacana. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs discontinuously in sub-Saharan Africa, including patches of the area from Senegal to Ethiopia, however it is especially widespread from Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is uncommon to locally common in eastern KwaZulu-Natal, small parts of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, while it is most common in northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip (Namibia). It generally prefers shallow, freshwater wetlands and backwaters of lakes and dams, especially with emergent grasses (such as Leersia and Hemarthria), sedges (including Rhynchosporia, Eliocharis, Cyperus and Juncus) and water-lilies (mainly Nymphaea and Nymphoides).

Distribution of Lesser jacana in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Highly nomadic, moving in search of fresh ephemeral wetlands.


It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging by walking on floating plants, plucking prey from the vegetation.


  • Monogamous, solitary nester; the male builds several simple display platforms, giving a hooting call in order to attract females.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a tiny floating stack of plant stems, typically placed alongside a grass or sedge tuft. If it is flooded both adults work tirelessly to build a new platform to move the eggs to.
  • Egg-laying season is from February-November, peaking from March-April.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for approximately 21 days.
  • The chicks remain within two metres of the nest for the first three days of their lives, ranging up to 150 metres away by the time they reach 17 days of age. When threatened they dive underwater, with just the bill tip protruding so that they can breathe. The parents intermittently brood them for the first month or so of their lives by holding them between wing and body. They typically take their first flight at roughly 32 days old and can fly well a week later, becoming fully independent at approximately 63 days old.


Not-threatened globally, but Near-threatened in South Africa, due its small population and decreasing range in the country.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.