Jacana, a wading bird of the family palame-deidce, and subfamily parrinae, of which the principal genus is parra (Linn.), found in the warmer parts of America, Asia, and Africa. The bill is long, slender, straight at the base, and vaulted at the tip; the base of the bill has a large, naked, dilated plate, standing up in front of the forehead; wings long, the third quill the longest; tail very short, partly concealed by the coverts; tarsi long, naked, and slender, with transverse scales. The most remarkable peculiarity is the great length of the toes, four in number, entirely separated, and all armed with long, straight, and sharp claws; that of the hind toe in the common species is so acute and long as to obtain for the bird the name of "surgeon;" in some the naked plates about the bill descend toward the neck. These birds frequent marshes, the sides of rivers, and ponds, in pairs or in small flocks; they are shy, when alarmed diving or skulking among the reeds; by the length of their toes they are enabled to walk upon the floating leaves of water plants, in search of aquatic insects, buds, and seeds; they are quarrelsome and noisy, striking each other with their spurred wings; the flight is rapid, straight, and not very elevated; they wade into the water as far as the knees; but do not swim, as their feet are not webbed; they are monogamous, the females making a nest among the reeds, and depositing four or five eggs.
More than a dozen species are described, of which the best known are the chestnut jaca-na (P. jacana, Linn.), black with a red mantle, with the primaries green, a native of South America; the Indian jacana (P. Indica, Lath.), blackish with blue and violet reflections, bronzed green mantle, rump and tail sanguine red, anterior quills green, and a white stripe behind the eye; and the African jacana (P. Africana, Gmel.), with wings unarmed, and forehead not carunculated and greenish black. They are about 10 in. long. The genus hydro-phasianus (Wagl.) has very long wings, with the shafts of the first three quills prolonged, and the ends of the fourth to the seventh lengthened, narrowed, and falcated; the tail narrowed, With the four central feathers much prolonged and the lateral ones short and graduated; the base of the bill and head entirely covered with feathers. To this genus belongs the Chinese jacana (H. Sinensis, Gmel.), which is the only species described by Gray; the habits are the same as in the preceding genus.
The general color is brown, with the head, throat, front part of the neck, and wing coverts white; hind neck with golden silky plumes; the long tail feathers black.
Chestnut Jacana (Parra jacana).