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The pheasant-tailed jacana is distinct because it has different plumages for the breeding and non-breeding seasons -- unique in its taxonomic family. In breeding plumage, the central tail feathers grow very long, resembling a pheasant's tail, which is how this bird got its common name. On the nape of the neck there is a patch of brilliant, gleaming gold feathers. The wings and underparts are dazzlingly white in flight in both plumages. Females are polyandrous and thus, they are slightly larger than the males and have brighter plumage colouring.
This lovely southeast Asian mystery bird is unique, so unique that it is the only member of its genus. This bird is a member of the Jacanidae family of wading birds that are readily identifiable by their huge feet and claws that have adapted them well to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes, their preferred habitat. Even though the jacanids can swim, they prefer to walk on floating vegetation. These birds are found on the Indian subcontinent and from Central China through South East Asia, in Afghanistan and as far as Java and the Philippines. They feed on invertebrates, frogs and fish that they catch whilst walking around on floating vegetation and in shallow water.