Like the wattled jacana (the African jacana’s South American counterpart), these birds can wade across floating vegetation with their long toes. This ability to ‘walk on water’ gained them the nickname of ‘JC birds’ or ‘Jesus bird’.
This bird actually has a far more interesting trait than its ability to hop across floating lilies. The female is known to be very promiscuous and will mate with a male (who must first build a floating nest) and lay three or four eggs a few days later. Once the eggs have been laid the female takes off and repeats this process with another male. The male will incubate the eggs, folding his wings around them to lift them off the damp nest. When the eggs hatch the chicks are very independent and hardly need any care at all – they have the long toes to allow them to walk on floating vegetation and can already feed themselves by pecking at aquatic invertebrates. The male remains very protective of the chicks however and if they are in danger he will scoop them up under his wing and run off with them.