Northern Jacana in Texas

We will be releasing our long awaited book A Quest for Waders in the next few weeks (see below for more details).

This book chronicles Rick and Elis Simpson’s travels, between November 2012 and January 2014, to various parts of the world to see as many wader, or shorebird if you prefer, species as they could. At the same time the book tells the story of how Wader Quest began, almost by accident, and developed into the charity it is today.

One of the species that Rick and Elis didn’t seeing during their world-wide quest for waders is the Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa. Although not unique to this species, the scientific name refers to the carpel spur which this bird exhibits.

Rick says;

‘Due to a lack of funds we had to cancel our hop over to Mexico from Texas, where we had hoped to see this species along with Double-striped Thick-knee.

Whilst on our Texas/Louisiana trip, I joked with the people in Louisiana that they should let me know if one turned up while we were there and we’d twitch it!

A lady by the name of Nancy L. Newfield, who is better known as an authority on the humming birds of Louisiana and the author of a delightful book on that subject Louisiana Hummingbirds, mentioned that Northern Jacanas used to breed in Brazoria County, Texas and that she had been to see them.’

A population of up to 40 birds had established itself in Brazoria County between 1967 and 1978 at Maner Lake. It seems that prior to 1910, the species may have been a rare resident in the lower Rio Grande valley, but is now considered a rare visitor. The demise of these birds was thought to be a combination of a hard freeze in the winter of 1977 – 78 and the aggressive policy of the land owner against the water lilies, water hyacinth and water lettuce on the lake, thus removing the habitat that literally supported the population.

‘I’m not sure if this would happen today.’ Rick continued. ‘It would be a difficult discussion, should we maintain invasive alien plants for the sake of an out-of-range population of an otherwise common bird, just because it was in the USA? Would it happen? Would concerns for the environment outweigh the concerns for the birds?’

The only other record of any jacanas species in North America relates to a fossil of an extinct species called Jacana farrandi, which was discovered in Pliocene rocks in Florida. Rick concluded;

‘Unless Dr. Who is available for transportation (now there’s a nice thought) no-one will be seeing any of those any time soon either!’


A Quest for Waders is due to be published by Wader Quest Publishing shortly (watch this site and social media for announcements) and will initially be available for £15 (RRP £18.50) from Wader Quest. All proceeds from the book will go to Wader Quest. Contains nearly 362 pages of lively text, 54 pages with colour photos and 36 line drawings of waders. Text and drawings by Rick Simpson. Photos by Elis Simpson. ISBN 978-0-9955146-2-1