Aug 12 2011
This is an African jacana chick and his lifestyle is as odd as his feet.
He hatched in a floating nest built by his father on a shallow tropical lake. Not only did his dad build the nest but he incubated the eggs and raised the chicks.
His mother had nothing to do with the family. After she laid the eggs she went off to spend time with the other males in her harem as is typical in the jacanas’ female-dominated society.
Dad’s nest building skills were acceptable but a floating nest does get wet. Fortunately the eggs are waterproof and the chicks precocial — they can walk and find food as soon as they hatch.
And that leads back to this baby’s feet.
Since jacanas live on lakes they have to be able to walk across very flimsy floating vegetation. Their big feet can do this because they act like snowshoes, distributing the birds’ weight across a wide surface. This earned African jacanas the nickname “lily trotter.”
He walks on water.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original, taken at a zoo in Japan)