Photographer Neal Cooper was overjoyed when he captured a male African jacana racing across lily pads in Chobe National Park.
At first glance, the fluffy bird seemed to have eight legs of different lengths, but Cooper soon realized that the father bird was carrying his children to safety.
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The jacana chicks have long legs, which dangle out from under their dad’s wings, creating an adorable optical illusion. The jacana’s child-rearing behavior is where the larger female lays eggs and the father takes care of incubation and chick-rearing.
“I was aware of the jacana behavior where the larger female only lays the eggs and the father incubates and raises the chicks. I was hoping to capture such an image where the dad carries them across the lily pads. Well, this dad did exactly that … when he crouched down and the four chicks climbed in under his wings.”
Jacana fathers usually allow their chicks to explore and play, but when it’s time to move, the fathers call them over. The long-legged birds will then crouch down and allow the chicks to rest under their wings, staying dry and safe from predators.
The process of offloading the chicks from under their dad’s wings is a quick one.
“The dad [will] typically stand up and the chicks [will] drop out onto the lilies and move off immediately.”
However, the devoted dad will always keep a watchful eye on his little ones. During the first few months of their lives, he will guide them in foraging, diving, and, of course,
protect them from harm by carrying them safely under his wings.
The story of the African jacana father and his chicks is a heartwarming reminder of the dedication and love that exists in the animal kingdom.
Neal Cooper’s stunning photograph captures this special moment in nature, where a father bird carries his young to safety, creating an illusion of multiple legs.
It is remarkable how the father bird teaches and protects his chicks during their first few months of life, highlighting the depth of care and devotion that exists in the animal world.