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ON TAIWAN “Endemic Subspecies of Taiwan birds—first impressions”, by N. J.
Collar, from BirdingASIA
No. 2, December 2004. Presented with permission.
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The Pheasant-tailed Jacana is a large (39-58 cm, including a 25-35 cm tail), distinctive bird with a long tail and very long toes. In breeding plumage the body is blackish below, browner with a greenish tinge above, the wings are white and the long tail is black. The head, face and front half of the neck are white, and the hindneck is a shiny yellow-buff. A black patch on the rear of the crown continues as a line down the neck, separating the yellow hindneck from the white foreneck. The bill and legs are bluish gray and the iris is brown. In non-breeding plumage the underparts are white, with a brownish bar across the breast, the upperparts are paler greenish brown and the tail is much shorter. Sexes are alike, but the female is significantly larger.
The Pheasant-tailed Jacana frequents freshwater wetlands with extensive aquatic vegetation such as lakes, ponds and swampy ground. It walks on floating water plants to feed on insects and other invertebrates. The nest is a pad of stems and pieces of aquatic vegetation, constructed chiefly by the male. The sex roles are reversed, with the female defending three or more males, and laying successive clutches of four eggs, up to about 10 per year. The eggs are left with the males for incubation and all parental care. The female, however, defends the nesting territory.
In Taiwan the Pheasant-tailed Jacana is a rare summer resident, breeding chiefly in the water chestnut agricultural areas of Tainan. Its numbers have decreased greatly due to drainage of wetlands, water pollution and pesticide use. The population is estimated at about 100 birds (2005).
References: A Field Guide to the Birds of China (Mackinnon and Phillipps); Guide to Threatened Birds of Taiwan, BirdLife International Red Data Book, 2005 (Woei-horng Fang); 100 Common Birds of Taiwan (Wild Bird Society of Taipei); Handbook of Birds of the World Vol. 3