Over the last week, there has been great excitement amongst the rangers regarding a discovery at Camp Dam. This waterhole may be familiar to many of you that have visited us before. It is the waterhole that greets you at the start and end of every game drive if you are staying in Varty Camp or Tree Camp. In general, there is something exciting about a brief stop here on your way out of the camp, there is often a hive of activity, from a whole host of birdlife to crocodiles, water monitor lizards, terrapins and various antelope all going about their day along the water’s edge.
On a recent morning drive, as we were arriving back to camp, we stopped to admire an African Jacana that was walking on some floating vegetation near us.
Within seconds, tracker Rich noticed something nearby. It was only when the rest of us lifted our binoculars to our eyes, that we could see what Rich could see, three incredibly camouflaged eggs lying in the middle of a floating nest near to where the Jacana was foraging.
That afternoon we checked in to see how the nest was doing, the Jacana was once again foraging nearby. The next morning as we left camp we saw that there was still three eggs, this time the Jacana was sitting on top of the nest but flew off when while we were there. On our way back into camp from a lovely morning game drive we saw that there were not just three eggs, but four! Another one had been laid while we were out on the drive.
So why is this so exciting? Well, the nesting habits of African Jacana are fascinating and quite unlike the conventional process that many would expect. The first part is what you would expect, the male builds a number of platform-type nests out of aquatic plant material that floats on the water. The female will then select one and begin the laying process. She will lay four eggs, very seldom three or five all laid at one-day intervals.
Once the female has laid the eggs, her role is complete and she leaves the male and may even go and find another male to shack up with. From now on it is only the male’s responsibility to look after the eggs and incubate them. He spends his day foraging near the nest and will aggressively defend the nest against other waterbirds that approach the area. The incubation begins after the third egg is laid and on average takes about 24 days. Lucky for us we know when the third egg was laid so we are counting down the days till hopefully, we get to see the chicks. Since the nest is floating on water and maybe sodden, the male will tuck his wings under the eggs holding them against his brood patch with the underside of his wings to aid the incubation.
We have now found ourselves so invested in this nest and how things turn out. It has become part of our daily game drive routine to check up on the nest at the beginning and end of every game drive.
Starting in the early morning, the male is often sitting comfortably on the eggs from the night before when temperatures would have dropped overnight. By the time we get back, he is usually out foraging for food nearby the nest. On one occasion on a slightly cooler overcast morning, he was still sitting on the eggs when we got back. In the afternoon every now and then we see him at the nest, but mostly he will be in the surrounding area. Normally, incubation time is reduced during the warmer parts of the day and increased during cooler weather. Sometimes the male will shade the eggs with his wings on very hot days.
It has brought us such joy watching the process unfold and hopefully, we will be seeing four little chicks hatching soon. The process from then on is just as exciting, but we will get to that when the little chicks hatch, Stay tuned!
Filed under Birds General Nature Wildlife
Thank you Tayla for a very interesting article. We tend to overlook the smaller creatures that’s part of nature. I hope you’ll report back once the chicks have hatched.
Tayla, this is so exciting. I’ve seen Jicanas, but never their nest or eggs. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the little chicks in 2-3 weeks. Terrific photos of them and the eggs on the nest.
Fascinating! I’ve never seen a jacana nest myself. That’s going to be really interesting to see what happens at that nest!
How exciting! I love the coloration of their eggs. It reminds me of a specific designer wallpaper. I can’t wait to (hopefully) watch the chicks hatch and grow.
Tayla, What an awesome post! It will be great to follow them and to hopefully see the chicks hatch and thrive!
Nature continues to fascinate me–the “precision” of 4 consecutive days of laying the eggs as well as the defined roles of the male & female.
How exciting to see this, Tayla! We so enjoyed our twice daily check-in on the eggs while we were there for 32+ game drives with you and Richard. P & J
How fascinating. Can’t wait to see the little chicks. Question… Do they only lay their eggs near aquatic vegetation? When I was just there I could have sworn on the night drive that we almost ran into a bird who is incubating their eggs on the very side of the road it looked exactly like this bird and these eggs – shame the name of the bird eludes me now.
Fascinating, thanks for sharing the pictures and information about the Jacana. Hope things turn out well for the Jacana family.
These eggs are beautiful! I’m looking forward to what happens next!
One of the few birds exhibiting poliandry… such a privilege to see them personally! Fantastic
This is so exciting! I love these birds but I cannot really remember having ever seen them on that pond. How wonderful that you can observe the male actually sitting on the eggs. Hopefully the chicks will all be well. What a nice little brood they will be. How long will the father care for the chicks?
Tayla very interesting the Jacanas, thanks for the information. Can not wait for the chick’s to be hatched. Never new that the male is now responsible for the rest of the incubation time and protection of the eggs.
Nice Tayla! looking forward to the next post on this little family of eggs hoping to become chicks!!