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#ABArare – Northern Jacana – Texas

Perhaps promising some exciting birding for the upcoming Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, an immature Northern Jacana (ABA Code 4) was photographed on November 3 by Aaron and Karen Marshall at Pintail Lake 5 at Santa Ana NWR in Hidalgo, Texas.

Hopefully, we’ll have some photos of the bird as they become available.

From the Santa Ana NWR parking lot, take the paved looped road on foot into the refuge. Where the parking area by the Tree Tower is on the right, turn left onto a gravel road. Follow this road (also known as the Pintail Lakes Cutoff) to the Pintail Lakes, connecting with the Pintail Lakes Trail. The bird was in the pond on the right or south side of the road in heavy vegetation and limited water.
Here’s a link to a map of the refuge. The gravel road is labelled as service road on here, but it is a valid trail.

Northern Jacana became established in Brazoria County, Texas in 1967–1978.  That population, although no longer present, had as many as
40 individuals.

In a previous post on the defunct PEEPS blog, Bill Maynard writes that there are eight jacana species recognized worldwide, two in the New
World, and with fossil evidence of an extinct jacana from Florida.  One remarkable feature of all jacanas is their extraordinarily long toes and toenails, allowing them to evenly distribute their weight as they seem to magically walk on floating aquatic vegetation.  They also have a sharp metacarpal spur on their wings that is used in confrontations with other jacanas.  What is not universally recognized is the correct pronunciation of jacana.  In India, the bird is pronounced “jakana“.  However, the first jacana species to be described to science, Wattled Jacana, was probably named from Portuguese as Jaçanã, an interpretation from Portuguese of a Tupi-Guarani word for the bird.  Tupi and Guarani are the two official languages of Paraguay’s Guarana region where the first specimen of a jacana, Jacana jacana was collected.  In that South American region, it is locally called JAH-sah-NAH where the “j” is pronounced “Zh” and the “c” is soft.  However, the family name Jacanidae, is pronounced ja-CAN-i-dae.

Another thought on the origin of the word jacana follows. Two Jesuit priests founded the city of São Paulo, Brazil and in 1554 transcribed
Tupi words into the Portuguese alphabet (which includes ç) and wrote a dictionary and a grammar.  These formed the basis for proper names of
Tupi origin in Portuguese. Jaçanã most likely is a word used by the Tupi groups that lived along the Southeast Brazilian coast, although the word would probably be recognized by many of the Amazonian indigenous groups.  In fact, in the 19th century, a simplified form of Tupi was used as lingua geral (a language of general use) in most of the Brazilian hinterland. (Wikipedia)

In current Brazilian Portuguese, Jaçanã is pronounced ja-sa-nan with “ja” as “sa” and “nan” as most would pronounce it in English.

Most recently, a body of the America Ornithological Union, the South American Checklist Committee (SACC), posted on their website “We do not use a cedilla in “jacana” (or “aracari”) because the Oxford English Dictionary treats these as English words without a cedilla.”  While this doesn’t entirely answer the question, how to pronounce jacana, it hopefully shows why there are so many interpretations.

 

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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