Photo Of Bird With 8 Legs Turns Out To Be The Sweetest Optical Illusion

He's father of the year 🏆

When photographer Neal Cooper snapped a photo of a male African jacana racing across the lily pads in Chobe National Park, he was thrilled.

At first glance, the fluffy bird appeared to have a total of eight legs — some long, some short — but according to Cooper, that’s normal. Cooper hadn’t actually photographed a bird with eight legs. Instead, he captured a devoted father carrying his children to safety. And because the jacana chicks’ legs are so long, they dangle out from under their dad’s wings, creating an adorable optical illusion.

“I was aware of the jacana behavior where the larger female only lays the eggs and the father incubates and raises the chicks,” Cooper told The Dodo. “I was hoping to capture such an image where the dad carries them across the lily pads.”

“Well, this dad did exactly that … when he crouched down and the four chicks climbed in under his wings,” he added.

Jacana fathers will typically give their chicks plenty of room to play and explore but will call out for them to come over when it’s time for a ride. The long-legged bird will then crouch down and tuck the babies under his wings, where the chicks will rest, dry out and can hide from any potential predators.

When it comes to the “offloading” process, the chicks don’t stay under their dad’s wings for long.

“The dad [will] typically stand up and the chicks [will] drop out onto the lilies and move off immediately,” Cooper said.

But the jacana father will never be too far away from his chicks. For the first few months of their life, he'll be there to teach them to forage, dive and, of course, carry them to safety in his warm embrace.