In some places, jacanas are called the “Jesus bird” because they can walk seemingly on water. In reality however, their overly long toes can spread their weight over a large area and this allows them to walk on floating or emergent vegetation near the water surface. This gives the illusion of walking on water.
When in breeding plumage, the Pheasant-tailed Jacana sports an elongated tail and the nape turns from pale yellow to golden yellow. Such adornment makes this bird an ornately beautiful subject to photograph, particularly when it’s in the air where the long tail, thin feathertips of the wings and very long toes are very visible.
It’s a shy customer though, so it’s not easy to approach and capture well. I’ve been wanting to photograph it in flight each time I visit Candaba wetlands, but luck wasn’t on my side always.
My fortune changed for the better on July 2008. I saw this particular individual making numerous trips between its presumed nesting site in the middle of the pond and an area in the adjoining ricefield. An earth dike ran in between the two places.
As soon as I saw it land in the ricefield, I immediately hid myself on the earth dike and waited in an ambush position along the expected flight path back to the pond. Sure enough, the bird rose above the rice plants after a few minutes and headed my way. My 1D MII had no trouble locking focus on the contrasty target, given a plain sky as background. I probably filled my RAW buffer to capacity, and this particular shot was my pick because of the good wing position and eye contact.
Pheasant-Tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus, resident, breeding plumage)
Habitat – In wetlands with floating or emergent vegetation.
Shooting Info – Candaba wetlands, Pampanga, Philippines, July 22, 2009, Canon 1D MII + EF 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II, f/7.1, ISO 320, 1/2000 sec, 475B/3421 support, manual exposure in available light.