Tucson Wildlife Center

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Tucson Wildlife Center Sights Rare Bird

Living in one of the most bio-diverse regions of the United States brings some unexpected guests our way. While a TWC staff member was searching for suitable habitat for our releases, she sighted a rare bird for our region, the northern jacana. A tropical bird from Mexico, western Panama, Cuba, and the Caribbean, the northern jacana is a wading bird. They have extremely long toes and claws that allow them to walk on top of semi-submerged plants earning it the nickname of “Jesus” bird as it appears to walk on water. It has a dark reddish-brown body, black head and neck, and a yellow bill and forehead wattle. Distinguished in flight by its yellowish-green primary and secondary feathers, the northern jacana has yellow spurs on the leading edge of its wings, used for defense. Rarer still is the greenish color of the wing feathers which is produced by a pigment, called zooprasinin, a copper containing organic compound. This is one very rare bird, called a “vagrant” when seen in Arizona.Within a few feet, a spotted sandpiper and a green heron were also sighted. They are thriving together as companions in this protected, watery, and rich habitat.

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