Thailand Birding: Pheasant-tailed Jacana

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Pheasant-tailed Jacana is a species that many visiting bird watchers ask me about. It is one of those colourful and strangely-shaped birds that capture people’s imagination and although it is fairly widespread in Thailand, found in the better quality freshwater wetlands, it is not a common species by any means and in order to see it birders usually need to visit one of its strongholds.


Pheasant-tailed Jacana by Peter Ericsson

Where to see Pheasant-tailed Jacana
Pheasant-tailed Jacana prefers marshy wetlands, overgrown fishponds and areas with floating vegetation. In winter they can be found at many sites throughout Thailand, from the far south to the far north but only breed at a few sites in the Central Plains. Below is the distribution map from Craig Robson’s Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand.

Some of the best sites to see Pheasant-tailed Jacana on a winter birding trip to Thailand are:

Pheasant-tailed Jacana breeds at the last four sites listed and can be seen all year round; breeding close to Bangkok was only discovered relatively recently. At Tung Bang Jak small numbers of breeding Pheasant-tailed Jacanas can be seen and they can be found throughout similar freshwater wetlands all around Bangkok; there are probably dozens of sites where they breed in small numbers but, at Muang Boran Fishponds in Samut Prakarn, I counted at least 80 birds in  breeding condition just a few days ago.

In Phil Round’s new book, The Birds of the Bangkok Area, he has quoted my sighting of 120 birds at Muang Boran Fishponds on 23rd February 2003 as the largest single count in Thailand. Going through my records though I noticed that I counted 165 on the 1st January 2004 and 192 on 22nd February 2004; it seems perhaps this site is the best place in Thailand to find this species in large numbers?

A Few Interesting Pheasant-tailed Jacana Facts

  • The species has reversed sex roles with the female defending a territory and building the nest. The male incubates the eggs and tends the young.

  • The alarm call is a strange, high-pitched mewing sound

  • The chicks are able to swim at just 1-2 hours old

  • Most migrants have left Thailand by late April

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Links
Peter Ericsson, Johan Svensson and Alex Vargas all have photographs of Pheasant-tailed Jacana in Thailand.

There are 3 video clips of Pheasant-tailed Jacanas here: Hydrophasianus chirurgas.

The Wikipedia entry for Pheasant-tailed Jacana is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pheasant-tailed_Jacana

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  1. [...] Recent Comments nick on Contact MeDAVID SCOTT on Contact MeAlex on Some Butterflies of ThailandDartford Waffler » Helm Bird Identification Guides on Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America by Klaus Malling Olsen & Hans LarssonDartford Waffler » Thailand Birding: Bang Poo Soi 119, Bang Poo & Muang Boran Fishponds on Thailand Birding: Pheasant-tailed Jacana [...]

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  3. [...] of the day with a good selection of waterbirds. First birds of the day were a couple of lovely Pheasant-tailed Jacanas which were viewed at close range. On closer inspection around a dozen of this species could easily [...]

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