The African Jacana, also informally known as the Lily Trotter, is one of the most fascinating birds that you will come across when cruising the channels of the Okavango Delta. One can’t help but marvel at how well these birds have adapted to their environment. Part of the wader family, one will usually see the African Jacana conspicuously darting across lily pads that are floating in the middle of deep waterways.
Most interestingly, the African Jacana has a very unusual mating pattern, scientifically known as the Polyandrous mating system. To put it simply, this means that the female mates with several males and the males will incubate and raise the chicks once the eggs have hatched. The female Jacana lays approximately three to four eggs at a time, either on a lily pad of choice or similar floating vegetation, she will then move off to find a new mate.
There is some method behind this madness and it has to do with highly-evolved breeding behavior, instead of the female expending energy on raising young she can rather use this energy to increase the numbers of the species – one female can have up to twenty eggs being incubated at a time. The male African Jacana has therefore evolved some remarkable adaptations for parental care, such as the ability to pick up and carry chicks underneath its wing.
Recently at Kanana, guests were out on an afternoon mokoro trip when their poler spotted these Jacana eggs neatly laid on tangled reeds floating in the channel.