Madagascar Jacana Actophilornis albinucha


Justification of Red List category
This species qualifies as Endangered because it is estimated to have a small population existing as one genetic subpopulation, and is undergoing a moderately rapid population decline through habitat degradation and hunting pressure.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 975-2,064 individuals, roughly equating to 780-1,643 mature individuals. In 2016, surveys observed 135 jacana, of which 108 were mature, and 27 were juveniles. The jacana were observed at a mean population density of 3.5 ± 0.74 [SE] individuals per hectare (D'Urban Jackson et al., 2019). Genetic analysis by D'Urban Jackson (2018) found no genetic sub-structuring, and as such the jacana are considered to exist in one subpopulation.

Trend justification
The population appears to have become increasingly rare in suitable habitat (P. Morris in litt. 2010, L.-A. Réné de Roland in litt. 2012). It is inferred to be in moderately rapid decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and degradation within its restricted habitat range, as well as hunting pressure (del Hoyo et al. 1996, P. Morris in litt. 2010, L.-A. Réné de Roland in litt. 2012, G. Young in litt. 2012, D'Urban Jackson et al., 2019).

Distribution and population

Actophilornis albinucha is endemic to Madagascar. It has been described as common or abundant in western and northern Madagascar, but is rare to absent in the east of the island (Langrand 1990, Morris and Hawkins 1998, Safford 2013). It has been noted that the species is becoming less frequently observed in suitable habitat (P. Morris in litt. 2010, L.-A. Réné de Roland in litt. 2012), probably indicating that a decline has occurred. This apparent decline is believed to be ongoing, on the basis of continued habitat loss and modification, as well as hunting pressure (del Hoyo et al. 1996, P. Morris in litt. 2010, L.-A. Réné de Roland in litt. 2012, G. Young in litt. 2012, D'Urban Jackson et al., 2019).


Behaviour The migratory movements and breeding habits of this species are little known, although it appears to make minor local movements in response to water conditions and may breed throughout the year (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species is usually found alone or in pairs, more rarely in groups (one group recorded contained 75 individuals) (Langrand 1990).
Habitat The species shows a preference for floating vegetation on shallow lake margins, in freshwater marshes, on ponds and on slow-flowing rivers, from sea-level to c.750 m (Langrand 1990, del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Diet Its diet consists of adult and larval insects and other invertebrates, as well as of the seeds of aquatic plants (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Breeding site The nest is a floating heap of aquatic vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1996).


The main threat is habitat destruction (D'Urban Jackson et al. 2019). Freshwater wetlands are a highly threatened habitat in Madagascar, primarily because of land-use change, especially but not only because of conversion to rice paddies (Benstead et al. 2003, Kull 2012, Bamford et al. 2017). There are also relatively few protected areas for wetland biodiversity (Bamford et al. 2017). A decline in the population on Lake Alaotra has been attributed to siltation, agricultural development, drainage, over-fishing and illegal hunting (del Hoyo et al. 1996). However, the species can survive in some modified and disturbed habitats, such as flooded rice fields (G. Young in litt. 2012), although individuals are far more abundant on nearby lakes and it is unclear whether they can survive on these altered habitats in the absence of more natural wetlands in the vicinity (R. Safford in litt. 2016, J. Westrip in litt. 2016). Hunting has also been reported (L.-A. Réné de Roland in litt. 2012, G. Young in litt. 2012), although its prevalence and significance to jacana populations is not clear (D'Urban Jackson et al. 2019).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No targeted conservation actions are known for this species, although it occurs in a number of protected areas, and will benefit from actions carried out for other aquatic bird species.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to acquire a total population estimate and baseline estimates for certain sites. Conduct regular population monitoring at selected sites. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation across its range. Increase the area of suitable wetland habitat that receives effective protection, by improving the management effectiveness of existing protected areas and by creating more protected areas in the species's range (R. Safford in litt. 2016).


Text account compilers
Clark, J.

Butchart, S., D'Urban Jackson, J., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L., Morris, P., Réné De Roland, L.A., Safford, R., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.R.S. & Young, G.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Actophilornis albinucha. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/madagascar-jacana-actophilornis-albinucha on 29/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 29/09/2023.