Nature conservation

Threatened species

Comb-crested Jacana - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Irediparra gallinacea
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Profile last updated: 21 Jun 2018


The Comb-crested Jacana is a highly distinctive, medium-sized waterbird (body length 20-27 cm), with long legs and exceptionally long toes that allow the bird to walk on floating vegetation, which may sometimes be partly submerged, giving the impression of the bird walking on water. This gave rise to the common name of Jesus-bird or Christbird. The Comb-crested Jacana is mainly olive-brown above and white on the underbody, with a black cap and upperneck, a white face with a golden tinge, a broad dark band across the breast, and a large red fleshy comb on the forehead and a red bill. The legs and feet are grey to olive-green, and the eyes orange. Comb-crested Jacanas can be seen singly, in twos or groups or flocks of various sizes, on a wide range of freshwater wetlands. They are busy and unmistakable as they walk on lily pads and other floating vegetation. In flight, their long legs and feet extend noticeably past the tip oif the tail. Its strident piping and twittering calls are also distinctive.


The Comb-crested Jacana occurs on freshwater wetlands in northern and eastern Australia, mainly in coastal and subcoastal regions, from the north-eastern Kimberley Division of Western Australia to Cape York Peninsula then south along the east coast to the Hunter region of NSW, with stragglers recorded in south-eastern NSW (possibly in response to unfavourable conditions further north). Beyond Australia, the Comb-crested Jacana occurs from Borneo and the Phillippines, south and east through Sulawesi, the Moluccas and Lesser Sunda Islands, to the Aru Islands, New Guinea and New Britain.

Habitat and ecology

  • Inhabit permanent freshwater wetlands, either still or slow-flowing, with a good surface cover of floating vegetation, especially water-lilies, or fringing and aquatic vegetation.
  • Forage on floating vegetation, walking with a characteristic bob and flick. They feed primarily on insects and other invertebrates, as well as some seeds and other vegetation.
  • Breed mainly in spring and summer in NSW, with clutches recorded from September to April. The nest is a platform or shallow cup of vegetable material, though eggs sometimes laid directly onto a large leaf with no nest built. The male builds the nest, incubates the eggs and broods the young. Eggs that roll into the water from a nest are usually retrieved.
  • The young are precocial, but the adult male can carry one or two under each wing if they are threatened and drop them in separate places.
  • Young birds will dive and stay submerged with just their nostrils exposed for a very long time. Adults will also dive for safety on occasion.
  • Comb-crested Jacanas are dispersive, moving about in response to the condition of wetlands, and occasionally turn up well beyond normal range.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NandewarPeel Known None
New England TablelandsGlenn Innes-Guyra Basalts Known None
New England TablelandsNightcap Known None
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastDalmorton Predicted None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known None
NSW North CoastUpper Hunter Known None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known None
OceanManning Shelf Known None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
Ocean - Other StateNorthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Sandstones Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandWoodenbong Known None
Sydney BasinCumberland Known None
Sydney BasinHunter Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None
Sydney BasinYengo Predicted None