Temporal range: Miocene - Recent 10–0Ma
|Elegant Crested Tinamou (Eudromia elegans)|
G.R. Gray, 1840
|2 subfamilies, 9 genera, 47 species, 127 subspecies|
Tinamous form an order (Tinamiformes) comprising a single family of 47 species of birds found in Central and South America. The word "tinamou" comes from the Galibi term for these birds, tinamu. One of the most ancient living groups of bird, they are most closely related to the flightless ratites. They are generally sedentary, ground dwelling and, though not flightless, when possible avoid flight in favour of hiding or walking away from danger. They are found in a variety of habitats, ranging from alpine grasslands to tropical rainforests. The two subfamilies are broadly divided by habitat, with the Nothurinae referred to as steppe or open country tinamous, and the Tinaminae known as forest tinamous.
Although some species are quite common, tinamous are generally shy and secretive birds. They are active during the day, retiring to roosts at night. They generally have cryptic plumage, with males and females similar in appearance. They are heard more often than seen, communicating with each other by a variety of frequently given, characteristic calls, especially during the breeding season.With occasional exceptions, male tinamous maintain territories and a nesting site during the breeding season which a succession of females will visit, laying their eggs in the same nest. Females will wander through several territories mating with, and laying eggs in the nests of, the resident males. Nests are always on the ground, concealed in vegetation or among rocks. Eggs are relatively large and glossy, often brightly colored when laid, and are incubated by the males for a period of 2–3 weeks. The chicks can run soon after hatching and are largely self-sufficient at three weeks old. They are opportunistic and omnivorous feeders, consuming a wide variety of plant and animal food from fruits and seeds to worms, insects and small vertebrates. They will dust-bathe as well as wash by standing in heavy rain.
Tinamous and their eggs have many natural predators, ranging from falcons and vampire bats to Jaguars and Giant Anteaters. They have also been extensively hunted by humans and sometimes persecuted as agricultural pests. However, the main threat to their populations is from habitat destruction through land clearing and agricultural development. Seven species are listed as Vulnerable and another seven as Near Threatened. They feature in the mythology of the indigenous peoples of their range. Often translocated and easily bred in captivity, they have never been successfully domesticated.
Taxonomy and systematics 
The tinamou family comprises about 47 species in nine genera. The two subfamilies are the Nothurinae (also known as the Rhyncotinae), the steppe tinamous, and the Tinaminae, the forest tinamous. They range in size from the Dwarf Tinamou at 150 mm (5.9 in) and 42 g (1.5 oz) to the Gray Tinamou at 480 g (17 oz) and 1.6 kg (3.5 lb). Although they look similar to other ground-dwelling birds such as quail and grouse, the characters they share are the result of convergence and symplesiomorphy rather than shared evolutionary innovations. Tinamids have no closer living relatives than the flightless ratites, and thus are placed in their own order, Tinamiformes.
"Tinamidae" was defined as by Gauthier and de Queiroz (2001): "Tinamidae refers to the crown clade stemming from the most recent common ancestor of Tetrao [Tinamus] major Gmelin 1789 and all extant birds sharing a more recent ancestor with that species than with Struthio camelus Linnaeus 1758 and Vultur gryphus Linnaeus 1758."
Of Gondwanan origin, tinamids are related to the ratites. Although the fossil record in South America is generally poor, the known tinamiforme fossil record goes back 10 million years to the Miocene epoch, with fossils from the Tinamou family being located in the Pleistocene. Together with the ratites, they make up Palaeognathae ("old jaws"), while all other living birds are members of Neognathae ("new jaws"). Unlike other palaeognaths, tinamids do have a keeled sternum, but like the other palaeognaths they have a distinctive palate. It is believed that Tinamiformes separated out early on as evidenced by the fact that they still have their keeled sternum. Tinamous' possession of powder-down feathers and preen glands, which the ratites lack, is another distinguishing characteristic between the two orders.
Phylogenomic studies have shown tinamids as the sister group to Australasian and Oceanian ratites (i.e. the cassowaries, emus, and kiwis), with the South American rheas and African ostriches as successive outgroups. Tinamids themselves were shown to be monophyletic. Research published in 2010 found that the closest ratite cousins of tinamous are the moas of New Zealand, and that moas are more distantly related to emus and cassowaries than had been thought previously.
Generic relationships 
Cladogram of Tinamou genera based on a combination of morphological and molecular data analysed by Bertelli & Porzecanski (2004)
Species in taxonomic order 
Conservation status key:
- Genus Tinamus
- Genus Nothocercus
- Genus Crypturellus
- Berlepsch's Tinamou, Crypturellus berlepschi - LC
- Little Tinamou, Crypturellus soui - LC
- Cinereous Tinamou, Crypturellus cinereus - LC
- Tepui Tinamou, Crypturellus ptaritepui - LC
- Brown Tinamou, Crypturellus obsoletus - LC
- Undulated Tinamou, Crypturellus undulatus - LC
- Pale-browed Tinamou, Crypturellus transfasciatus - NT
- Brazilian Tinamou, Crypturellus strigulosus - LC
- Grey-legged Tinamou, Crypturellus duidae - NT
- Red-legged Tinamou, Crypturellus erythropus - LC
- Magdalena Tinamou, C. (e.) saltuarius (taxonomic status presently unclear) SACC in 2006 did not approve the split, BLI followed suit.
- Santa Marta Tinamou, C. (e.) idoneus (taxonomic status presently unclear) SACC in 2006 did not approve the split, BLI followed suit.
- Colombian Tinamou, C. (e.) columbianus (taxonomic status presently unclear) SACC in 2006 did not approve the split, BLI followed suit.
- Yellow-legged Tinamou, Crypturellus noctivagus - NT
- Black-capped Tinamou, Crypturellus atrocapillus - NT
- Thicket Tinamou, Crypturellus cinnamomeus - LC
- Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Crypturellus boucardi, also known as Boucard’s Tinamou - LC
- Choco Tinamou, Crypturellus kerriae - VU
- Variegated Tinamou, Crypturellus variegatus - LC
- Rusty Tinamou, Crypturellus brevirostris, also known as Short-billed Tinamou - LC
- Bartlett's Tinamou, Crypturellus bartletti - LC
- Small-billed Tinamou, Crypturellus parvirostris - LC
- Barred Tinamou, Crypturellus casiquiare - LC
- Tataupa Tinamou, Crypturellus tataupa - LC
- Genus Rhynchotus
- Genus Nothoprocta
- Genus Nothura
- Genus Taoniscus
- Dwarf Tinamou, Taoniscus nanus, also known as Least Tinamou - VU
- Genus Eudromia
- Genus Tinamotis
Tinamous are slender and compact birds with small heads and, usually, short, decurved bills, though a few have long bills. The smallest species, the Dwarf Tinamou, is about 43 g (1.5 oz) and 14.5 cm (5.7 in) long. The largest tinamou, the Gray Tinamou, weighs 2.3 kg (5.1 lb) and measures up to 53 cm (21 in) long. Their tails are short, sometimes hidden behind the coverts, and possibly indicative of an ability to sacrifice feathers to a predator in order to escape when grabbed. Some tinamous have crests. Members of Eudromia have the most developed crests and, when excited, will direct them forward.
Their feet have three forward-facing toes; a hind toe is either higher and retrogressed, or absent. The back of the tarsus is covered with scales, and the color may aid in identification. They form one of the most terrestrial groups of flying birds, spending virtually all of their time on the ground, and are able to walk silently, stopping constantly in mid-stride. When they sense danger, they will freeze, with necks erect and posteriors raised; they have also been known to crouch momentarily before seeking the cause of their alarm using screening vegetation. Despite their poor flying ability, the percentage of their body mass that is muscle is 28.6-40%, which is similar to that of hummingbirds.
The male tinamou has a corkscrew shaped penis, similar to those of the ratites and to the hemipenis of some reptiles. Females have a small phallic organ in the cloaca which becomes larger during the breeding season.
The plumage of the family is cryptic, as is usual with ground birds, with typical colors ranging through dark brown, rufous, buff, yellow and grey. Plumage does not usually differ between sexes, but in a few species females are brighter. The forest dwellers tend to be darker and more uniform, whereas the steppe species are paler with more barring, speckling, or streaking. Tinamous have well-developed powder down feathers; these grow continuously and disintegrate at the tips into a powder that is spread through the rest of the feathers by preening. This gives the plumage a glossy appearance as well as waterproofing it.
Tinamous are rarely seen but often heard within their range and have a wide variety of calls.. The Tinamou call is one of the most characteristic calls of South and Central America. It is clear, pure and simple sounding, resembling a flute or a whistle. Some calls are uniform and monotone, others have multiple phrases. They also vary in intensity. A bird, when flushed, will utter a sharp trill.
The call of a tinamou can be heard from great distance, the male Highland Tinamou can be heard several kilometers distant (through dense forest). Forest species tend to have a deep loud call, designed to penetrate vegetation, whereas plains-dwellers have a higher-pitched more delicate voice. Plains-dwellers also tend to be less melodic, sometime resembling such sounds as crickets. Trying to locate a bird via its call is not an easy task. When calling, they stretch their neck out vertically, tilt their head at an angle, and open their bill wide.
Identification of Tinamous is not an easy task, but utilizing their calls as a tool is integral. Each species has their own unique call or calls. The Solitary Tinamou has 11 different vocalizations. In most species, both sexes call, and some species have different calls for males and females. Females tend to have a deeper voice. Some species, in particular the members of the Crypturellus genus have a regional variation. Male Slaty-breasted Tinamous have a unique enough calls to be individually recognized by humans.
Breeding season is typically when the calls are more frequent. However, the time of day can differ amongst species, as some are more vocal in the morning, others in the evening, and even some are more vocal during the heat of the noonday. Some will even call at night from their roosts. Frequency can vary between species and even between individuals. One male Brushland Tinamou called every few minutes from dawn until dusk (over 500 calls daily). Some, in particular Crypturellus may use regular calling sights. Only a few of the species even possess an alarm call.
Distribution and habitat 
Tinamous are exclsuively neotropical and all 47 species live in South or Central America. The range of the northernmost species extends to Mexico but not much further than the Tropic of Cancer. One species has been introduced to Easter Island. They occur in a wide range of habitats. Members of the genera Tinamus, Nothocercus, and Cryptuerellus live in dense forests, with Nothocercus preferring high altitude, and members most of other genera live on grassland, puna, montane forest, and savanna. Tinamotis and Nothoprocta prefer high altitude, up to 5,000 metres (16,000 ft), whereas the other steppe tinamous have a wide altitude range. Tinamous inhabit most parts of South an Central America, excepting aquatic, snow-covered and true desert habitats, and the southernmost tip of Patagonia.
The greatest concentration of tinamous is in the tropics, and in particular in the Amazon River Basin. In the north, they tend to be forest or woodland birds, while in the south they prefer open habitats. Tinamous form the dominant group of terrestrial birds in South America, as no other bird family there has the diversity, distribution, and habitat adaptations that they do. Rheas are only found in the open country, curassows and guans are generally limited to forests, and the pheasant family family is only represented by a few species in the north of the region.
As terrestrial birds which avoid flying, and therefore occupying only ground-level habitats, behavioral and ecological separation of tinamou species is necessary for coexistence where their ranges overlap. The first way that this is done, is they have different sizes, which causes them to have different sources of food. Next is their use of extremely limited micro-habitats. These micro-habitats are not always easy to identify, and are highly vulnerable to habitat changes. Some species, such as the Red-winged Tinamou, utilize multiple habitats such as the open savannas of Amazonia and the dry valleys of the Andes. Similarly the Brown Tinamou lives in both the Amazon basin and the humid montane forests on the Andean slope.
Panama provides examples of ecological separation. The Highland Tinamou occupies the highlands throughout the country. The Great Tinamou prefers the rainforests on the slopes. The Choco Tinamou also like the rainforest, but is limited to the south-east of the country. Finally, the Little Tinamou is found in dense secondary forest on either the Pacific or Atlantic slope above 1,000 m (3,300 ft). Size difference is also what allows the Red-winged Tinamou and the Spotted Nothura to coexist, as they both occupy the same habitat of Brazil: the tropical savanna. The former prefers long grass pastures, where the latter prefers short grass.
Another example of this diversity is in the Andes, where Darwin's Nothura, Nothura darwinii boliviana a small sub-species lives in the fields and pastures at around 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Here also is the Red-winged Tinamou, which prefers open ground with some scrub, and the Andean Tinamou which prefers dense vegetation alongside streams. Their habitat extends up-slope through the Polyepis woodlands into the puna. In the puna, on will find yet another sub-species of the Darwin's Nothura, Nothura darwinii agassizii, which prefers bunch grass. Also in the puna, is the Ornate Tinamou which does not like the grassland, but prefers the rocky slopes and cliffs of the tola heath. Finally, also in the puna, but even higher is the Puna Tinamou, which lives just below the snow line at 5,300 metres (17,400 ft) and also lives in the deserts of the southern altiplano.
Tinamous are largely sedentary birds. Forest dwelling tinamous will move short distances if climatic conditions, such as intense rain, flooding or drought force them to. Most Amazonian species will move between the varzea forests and dry land depending on water levels. The Puna Tinamou occupies high ridges in the Andes just below the snow line but, in bad weather, will move down to the valley floors.
Forest species, such as the Slaty-breasted Tinamou, maintain large home ranges through which they move in no apparent patterns. The male Brushland Tinamou maintains a home territory of 20 hectares (0.20 km2), but will occasionally wander outside it into those of his neighbors. Females will wander throughout multiple males' territories. The Ornate Tinamou lives mainly upslope in hilly puna grassland but will move each morning to the bottom of the slopes to feed and drink. Granivorous species will move daily into grain fields. Some, such as Darwin's Nothura remain in the fields until there is no food left. Open area and southern species maintain territories only during the breeding season and at other times seem to wander at random.
Unlike the related ratites, tinamous can fly, though poorly and reluctantly. Their small wings give them a high wing loading. They have poor circulation, evidenced by a greenish tint to the skin. They also have relatively the smallest hearts and lungs of all birds, comprising only 1.6-3.1% of their body weight, whereas the equivalent in a domestic chicken is 12%..
When they do fly, they do so for short distances at high speed. They take off with rapid wing beats, until they have gained sufficient altitude, then glide while slipping sideways, with an occasional wing beat. They land in an upright position with upstretched neck. Some species will land running. The Brushland Tinamou will perform a sharp 90° turn immediately before touching down.
Due to their near lack of a tail to serve as rudder or counterweight, tinamous are notoriously poor at steering. They regularly crash into objects on attempting to take off, sometimes with fatal consequences. They rarely fly more than 500 m (1,600 ft) and typically do so downslope where the terrain allows.
They prefer to walk or run but will fly to avoid danger when they have exhausted other evasion methods. Flight technique consists of a flutter of wing-beats followed by a long glide, then another burst of wing-beats. When it initially becomes aware of a danger, a tinamou will typically freeze in one of two positions, either crouched or with its neck extended upwards. Tinamous will avoid resorting to flight by stealthy walking or by running away from danger as well as by concealment in dense vegetation. They may also hide in burrows. Their cryptic behavior has allowed them to survive or even thrive in areas where guans have been extirpated.
Although tinamous are diurnal, many species become less active in the middle of the day. They rest or feed during this period, while during the night they will cease all activity. They are wary of the dark; they roost at night and have been known to roost during solar eclipses. Roosting of the larger forest species (Tinamus) occurs in trees. They choose horizontal branches approximately 2–5 metres (6.6–16 ft) off the ground. They seek sites with a good views and an easy exit if danger approaches. Flight for these mainly terrestrial birds is both noisy and taxing and the birds attempt to minimize the effort involved in ascending to their roosts. In hilly terrain they will access the roosts from uphill and, when threatened, will fly downhill to gain more distance from the threat.
Tinamous prefer thick branches on which to roost as they do not clutch the branch with their toes, but rest on it with folded legs. They will reuse the same locations and avoid defecating nearby to prevent advertising to predators where they roost. The smaller forest species, along with the steppe tinamous, will roost on the ground, sometimes in the shelter of a bush. They will also use the same location repeatedly, known examples being the Elegant and Ornate Tinamous.
Tinamous, depending on the species, may be solitary or social and gather in groups. Gregariousness also varies by season. Forest species tend to be solitary and may only approach other birds during breeding season. Some live as mated pairs throughout the year. Steppe or grassland species tend to live in groups, though with little obvious group interaction apart from an occasional contact call. Group size may vary by season; in winter, groups of Elegant Crested Tinamous may approach 100 birds.
Both steppe and forest species are territorial, though territoriality varies between species from being characteristic only during the breeding season, to being territorial throughout the year. When defending their territories, tinamous are highly vocal, creating a cacophony of sound. When an intruder is noticed, birds of the same sex will confront it. This may lead to conflict, with feet and wings being used in attack. Both males and females will defend their territories; however, in each species, only one sex is fiercely territorial.
In most tinamou species, the males practice simultaneous polygyny and the female practice sequential polyandry. This is not invariable; Ornate Tinamous form stable pairs, and Spotted Nothuras are monogamous when young and polygamous when older. There are larger numbers of females than males; for example, the Variegated Tinamou has a female to male ratio of 4:1.
The breeding season varies from species to species; those that live in tropical forests, where there is little seasonal change, may breed at any time, though there is usually a preferred period. In areas with a marked seasonal fluctuation, tinamous generally breed when food is most abundant, which is usually summer. Studies have shown that it is not day length that determines the onset of breeding, but the amount of light, through cloud cover.
The courtship process starts with the male vocally advertising his abilities with continuous calling. He will try to attract multiple females. In some species, such as Tinamus, the male will lower his chest to the ground, stretch his neck forward, and fluff up his back to appear larger than normal. When observed head on, all of the bird's back is in view while the under-tail coverts are exposed, a pose similar to that used by the Rhea. The female will scratch her feet on the ground as part of the ritual.
Tinamous always nest on the ground; in open areas, near a bush; in scrub, in a dense patch of grass; in forest, at the base of a tree trunk between the buttresses. the Highland Tinamou is unique in that it sites its nest in a cavity or under an overhanging rock on steep slope. Many species do not build a nest, choosing to lay their eggs on a thin bed of leaves. Other species do construct nests and are meticulous in doing so. The nest of the Ornate Tinamou is circular and made of grass on a turf surface. The male Brushland Tinamou starts to scrape out a nest once copulation has occurred; several may be constructed though only one is used.
A tinamou female lays several eggs which the male incubates while the female departs to seek another mate. Large species will lay one egg every 3-4 days, where the smaller species lay on consecutive days. The females lay eggs in multiple nests throughout the nesting season.
There may be as many as 16 eggs in a nest. This is caused by several females laying in the same nest. The more mature males will attract more females and may have the eggs of up to four females under him. The Variegated and Ornate Tinamous have single-female nests, and consequently only one or two eggs per nest. This may result from food shortage in their ranges and the ability to care for only one or two chicks.
The eggs are attractively colored in a single color and have a hard porcelain-like gloss. Colors vary with species, ranging through green, purple, violet, turquoise, steel grey, chocolate and lemon-yellow. White is rare, but does occur. Though the eggs are bright and colorful when laid, over time they fade and become duller. For example, the egg of the Red-winged Tinamou dulls from purple to leaden. Mostly without spots or speckling, the eggs of Tinamotis species may exhibit small white speckles. The benefit of laying brightly colored eggs is unknown, but is not detrimental as most tinamou predators hunt at night.
Eggs are relatively large compared to the mass of the female, though even the largest birds produce eggs very similar in size to the smallest of species. Their shapes are either spherical or elliptical; the two ends are similar in shape, and difficult to distinguish. The shells are thin enough to see the embryos within.
Incubation is a short process in the Tinamou, lasting around 16 days in Crypturellus which have the smallest species and 19-20 days in Tinamus and Eudromia. During this period, the male is silent, and if he does call, he does so away from the nest. As he incubates, he will leave the nest to feed, and he may be gone from 45 minutes to 5 hours. Typically, the male will cover the eggs when he leaves to feed. While he is incubating, he maintains himself near motionless, and very tolerant of danger. An observer could approach and touch the male without eliciting a response. Some species will flatten themselves against the ground, stretch out their necks, and raise their backs to the air. This posture causes them to resemble a plant; however if he exaggerates this position, the eggs become visible from behind.
If the male becomes alarmed enough to leave the nest, he will attempt a distraction display. This will usually involve a fake injury display, similar to that of the Killdeer. To do this, he will hop on one leg and attempt to fly, always falling down. He will do this display if the eggs are not hatched or even if the chicks have hatched, but are still too young to fly. It is generally believed that tinamous are not as effective at distraction displays as other birds.
Chicks hatch synchronously with a dense downy coat. The coloring is white, grey or yellow, with dark spots to aid in camouflage. The young are precocial, and can run almost as soon as they hatch. Soon after hatching the eggs, the male will leave the nest and call the chicks to him with a soft contact call. If threatened, he will freeze and attempt to hide the chicks under his wings or belly. There have been documented cases of females caring for the young; it is thought that this occurs when the male has been killed. Young chicks can feed themselves within the first few days, but the male will bring the food and drop it on the ground in front of them. The chicks are delicate and may not survive the jungle or puna well, and so have a high mortality rate. However, within a few days they are chasing insects on their own and, at 1-3 weeks, they can fly to branches 1 m (3 ft 3 in) off the ground. They are self-sufficient within 20 days.
By 20 days, the Slaty-breasted Tinamou has gained adult size, but not adult weight. The Spotted Nothura will go from 10% of adult weight to 90% within 85 days, and the Red-winged Tinamou will do so in 108 days. Sexual maturity comes at one year old, although some species may be physiologically mature by 57 days. However some behavior may need to be learned before the birds can breed successfully.
Once done with the brood the male, if still within the breeding season, will seek out another female and initiate the cycle again. Studies have shown that 54-62% of breeding female Spotted Nothura are first-year birds.
Tinamous are opportunistic feeders and eat a wide range of foods, though each species varies in proportional dietary makeup. Tinamou genera can be roughly divided into three groups based on the vegetaruian component of their diets. Tinamus, Nothocercus and Crypturellus focus on fleshy fruit. Nothura, Nothoprocta and Eudromia, which are open country birds, eat mainly seeds. High-altitude genera living in harsh environments, such as Tinamotis, will eat the majority of the plant, not just the succulent parts.
Most species eat a mixture of plant and animal products, though some species are mainly herbivorous and others predominantly insectivorous or carnivorous. Some focus on fruits and soft vegetative matter, while others are seed eaters. Diet also may varies seasonally; Red-winged Tinamous eat mainly animal food in the summer and plant matter in the winter. Chicks eat more insects than their parents, probably for their growth needs.
Consumed plant material includes fruit (either fallen or on the tree), seeds, green shoots, tender leavers, buds, flowers, tender stems, roots, and tubers. Much of the animal food consists insects, such as ants, termites, beetles, grasshoppers, hemiptera, and lepidopteran larvae, as well as gastropods, molluscs, worms, and small vertebrates, such as amphibians and reptiles. The larger species will eat small mammals.
Feeding methods 
Food is taken mainly off the ground but also off the vine. The birds may jump for fruit or, as with the Crypturellus species, jump up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) for insects. The main foraging technique is a slow walk with head down, pecking at the ground and looking up occasionally. Small animals are eaten whole, larger ones are beaten against the ground or pecked. They use their bills rather than their feet to probe leaf litter and will sift through soil 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) deep.
The most frequent diggers are Rhynchotus, Nothura and Nothoprocta species, which are open country birds. They are also the birds with the nostrils positioned at the base of the bills, believed to be an adaptation to their digging. They, As with most birds, they swallow grit to aid their gizzards in digestion. Some species follow army ants, eating from the disturbance created. Others feed in the company of antbirds, formicariids, and ovenbirds. Nothura species, in particular, will follow livestock and eat the ticks that fall off them, and any insects that get knocked off bushes as they pass.
Water is required by most tinamou species, with some needing a good source of water within their home territory. Solitary Tinamous can withstand an extended period of time without water, by eating more succulent plants. However, species that live in arid or semi-arid climates tend not to need any water additional to that ingested with their diet. When tinamous drink, unlike most other birds they do so by sucking and swallowing, instead of lifting their heads and letting gravity do the work.
Health and mortality 
Tinamous are avid bathers. During heavy rain they may stand erect with their bill pointing skyward allowing the rain to wash over them. They will dust-bathe at regular intervals, and have been known to dust-bathe often enough to tint themselves the same color as the soil. They also sunbathe, and will do so while resting on one leg with an outstretched wing. Defecation for a tinamou is a slightly involved task as they must move aside the dense plumage that surrounds their vent to avoid soiling themselves. Captive tinamous defecate once daily.
There are over 240 species of bird lice that infest tinamous, with one individual bird recorded as hosting nine species. Other blood parasites include louse flies, leeches, nematodes, cestodes, armadillo ticks, mites, and trematodes. Darwin's Nothura may carry a malarial plasmodium.
Tinamou predators include cats, foxes, raccoons, weasels, tayras, and opposums. Legend speaks of jaguars that imitate the call to trick and catch them. Nests are vulnerable to snakes, monkeys and opposums, Giant Anteaters have been seen on Marajo Island breaking tinamou eggs. Forest falcons and Orange-breasted Falcons have been seen hunting them, and vampire bats lap their blood.
Relationship with humans 
Tinamous have established themselves in the folklore of the and histories of the indigenous people of South and Central Ameica. Forest tribes of Brazil and Colombia believe the jaguar imitates the call of the Great Tinamou in order to track and eat it. A tale from the Guahibo Indians tells of a young man traveling by canoe trying to locate the calling Tinamou. As he approached the bank he became suspicious at the harshness of the call and backed away just as a jaguar burst out of the vegetation.
Panamanian tradition states that after the "Great Flood", the Great Tinamou grew frightened of the bright colors in the rainbow. He flew away from the rainbow, the ark, and the rest of the animals, heading for the darkest part of the forest, where he has remained ever since.
A Brazilian legend explains of the separation of the Red-winged Tinamou and the Undulated Tinamou. The story starts off with how inseparable the two birds were, as they did everything together. One day they got into an argument and split up. The Undulated Tinamou went into the deepest dark of the forest, and the Red-winged Tinamou wanting to be different went to the grassy plains. One day, the Undulated Tinamou was feeling sad and lonely, went to the forest's edge and called his old friend. "Shall we make up?" he cries. The Red-winged Tinamou responds with "What me, never again." This story is meant to show that they are often heard but seldom seen.
Hunting and translocation 
Tinamous have been popular game birds for many years in South and Central America, so much so that some species' numbers have dropped. The steppe birds are more popular to hunt because when they get spooked they are more likely to take off, rather than the forest birds that just hide. During the previous century, there have been numerous attempts to introduce or reintroduce tinamous to various parts of the world. The Red-winged Tinamou has been reintroduced to the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where it had a wild population until it was over-hunted and exterminated at the turn of the 20th century. France, Germany, and Hungary have all, unsuccessfully, attempted to introduce them into their countryside.
There have been several unsuccessful attempts to introduce tinamous to the USA. In Oregon, between 1966-1974, 473 Ornate Tinamou and 110 Red-winged Tinamou were brought in. In 1966 and 1971, Florida introduced 128 Spotted Nothuras. In 1969, 47 and 136 Spotted Nothura were introduced to Alabama and Texas. 1970 saw Colorado and Oklahoma, introducing 164 and 100 Darwin's Nothuras respectively. In 1971, Nebraska brought 256 Elegant Crested Tinamou, and California introduced 217 in 1969, and 1200 between 1971 and 1977. The 1885 introduction of Chilean Tinamous to Easter Island was successful, though the population there is not prospering, since Chimango Caracaras were introduced in 1928.
Domestication and aviculture 
No tinamou species has been successfully domesticated, despite their ability to breed well in captivity. The Red-winged Tinamou has been bred on farms in France, Great Britain, Belgium, and Denmark. Today they, along with some of the Crypturellus are being bred in Rio Grande do Sul. These are being used to boost numbers for hunting. Hybridization can occur.
Many South American zoos have different tinamous, as do some private estates. Examples of captive breeding are Small-billed Tinamou in Minas Gerais and Red-winged Tinamou in Rio Grande do Sul. The Small-billed Tinamou has looked promising for domestication as the birds can raise 3-4 broods per year and are resistant to diseases that affect domestic chickens.
Several species have adapted to agricultural sydtems and will enter grain fields after the harvest and glean the ground, but they will also enter the fields during the growing season, to the dismay of the farmers. Some of these, in particular the Ornate and Andean Tinamous, will dig up tubers, such as potatoes, while Red-winged Tinamous create similar problems in peanut plantations. However, some members of Nothoprocta will prey on insect pests without damaging the crops. Spotted Nothuras have been documented eating weeds and, of the 28 animals they are recorded as eating, 26 are considered to be pests.
Status and conservation 
The status of the family is not easy to determine as many species live in isolation in the Amazon Basin or the far reaches of the Andes and attract little attention, even from ornithologists. Moreover, their cryptic coloration and behavior means that their presence often remains unnoticed. A large proportion of the species are Amazonian, with the majority of these decreasing in range. Most, however, are surviving well enough so far to avoid being classified as threatened.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies seven tinamou species as vulnerable and seven as near threatened. Major threats are habitat fragmentation and destruction. Although they are hunted throughout their range, it generally has little or only localized impact on the populations of the more widespread and common species. Pesticides are a continued problem throughout the grasslands and farmlands.
Land clearance 
The major threat for the forest tinamous is deforestation. Neotropical forests are badly affected, with large tracts being clearcut for cropping, pasture or timber. Much of this land is poor in nutrients, so is abandoned after a few years for newly cleared land. Forest species are consequently forced to adapt, relocate, or die out. As well as the forests, most types of habitat in Central and South America are under threat, barring the high Andes and Patagonia. There is controversy over the vegetative history with speculation that what is now grasslands in the Andes was once elfin forest.
The Dwarf Tinamou is a resident of the open plains of eastern Brazil, though there are fewer than 15,000 birds left. It has disappeared from its former range on the grasslands of Argentina. In the cerrado grasslands of Brazil the population of the Lesser Nothura has also decreased to fewer than 15,000 individuals because of agricultural and economic development. The practice of burning the fields is particularly detrimental to grassland tinamous. For example, the Dwarf Tinamou becomes intoxicated with the smoke and becomes vulnerable to scavengers. Moreover, if the burning occurs during the nesting season, the eggs or chicks are roated.
The Solitary Tinamou, limited to the Atlantic forests of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, is threatened by habitat destruction and hunting. In the cloud forests of northern South America, there are fewer than 10,000 Black Tinamous left. The Tepui Tinamou's range is limited to the tops of a handful of plateaus in the cloud forests of Venezuela, making it highly vulnerable to any threat.
In the late 19th and early 20th century hunting was responsible for mass killing within the family, with the Elegant Crested Tinamou and Spotted Nothura popular targets. In 1921, Argentina urged the control of commercial hunting of several bird species, including tinamou. Between 1890 and 1899, in Buenos Aires alone, 18 million tinamou were sold in meat markets. They were also mareketed in North America as "South American Partridge". One shipment alone comprised 360,000 birds. Frank Chapman of the American Museum of Natural History helped raised awareness about the rate of exploitation and its potential impact on the populations of the species. Eventually, they USA banned the importation of the birds.
Hunting pressures remain, though at a reduced level. For example, 25,000-40,000 Spotted Nothura are killed annually through legal hunting, not counting poaching. Although some grassland species have increased in both range and numbers, they remain vulnerable to hunting with the use of dogs to flush them. Native peoples also are involved in the killing tinamou for meat, catching them in nooses or traps after imitating their calls. A family of seven in Ceará will consume 60 nothura per year. Some species are highly vulnerable Illegal hunting, or poaching. In Brazil, illegal hunts take place at night by torchlight. The use of flutes to imitate the calls during the breeding season and lure the birds into the open can result in local extermination. Overall, there is a lack of adequate controls in place to ensure sustainable hunting, as well as insufficient resources and determination to enforce them.
See also 
- Brands, S. (2008)
- Gotch, A. F. (1995)
- Davies, S.J.J.F. (1991)
- Brown, Joseph W. (2005)
- Gauthier, J. & de Queiroz, K. (2001)
- Bertelli, S. and Chiappe, L. (2005). Earliest tinamous(Aves: Palaeognathae) from the Miocene of Argentina and their phylogenetic position. Contributions in Science NHM LA, 502: 1-20.
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- Davies, S. J. J. F. (2003)
- Hackett, S. J., et al. (2008)
- Harshman, J, et al. (2008)
- Phillips, et al. (2010)
- Bertelli, Sara; & Porzecanski, Ana Luz (2004). "Tinamou (Tinamidae) systematics: a preliminary combined analysis of morphology and molecules". Ornitologia Neotropical. 15 (Suppl.): 293–299.
- "Species status: Tinamidae". BirdLife data zone. BirdLife International. 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
- Remsen Jr., J. V., et al. (2008)
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- Jaramillo, A. (2008)
- IUCN (2012) http://www.iucnredlist.org/documents/summarystatistics/2012_2_RL_Stats_Table_4a.pdf accessed 6th Feb 2013
- BirdLife International (2008). Taoniscus nanus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 09 Apr 2013.
- BirdLife International (2008). Nothura minor. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 09 Apr 2013.
- Brands, Sheila (Aug 14 2008). "Systema Naturae 2000 / Classification, Order Tinamiformes". Project: The Taxonomicon. Retrieved Feb 04 2009.
- Brown, Joseph W. (27 Jun 2008). "Procellariidae. Shearwaters, Petrels". Tree of Life Web Project. Retrieved 18 Mar 2009.
- Davies, S.J.J.F. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. p. 48. ISBN 1-85391-186-0.
- Davies, S.J.J.F. (2003). "Tinamous". In Hutchins, Michael. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 8 Birds I Tinamous and Ratites to Hoatzins (2 ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. pp. 57–59. ISBN 0-7876-5784-0.
- Gauthier, J. and K. de Queiroz (2001). "Feathered dinosaurs, flying dinosaurs, crown dinosaurs, and the name "Aves"". In Gauthier, J. and L. F. Gall. New Perspectives on the Origin and Early Evolution of Birds: Proceedings of the International Symposium in Honor of John H. Ostrom. The Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. pp. 7–41. ISBN 0-912532-57-2.
- Gotch, A.F. (1995) . "Tinamous". Latin Names Explained. A Guide to the Scientific Classifications of Reptiles, Birds & Mammals. London: Facts on File. p. 182. ISBN 0-8160-3377-3.
- Hackett, S. J. et al. (2008). "A phylogenomic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history". Science 320 (1763): 1763–8. doi:10.1126/science.1157704. PMID 18583609.
- Harshman, J.; et al. (2008-09-09). "Phylogenomic evidence for multiple losses of flight in ratite birds". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 105 (36): 13462–13467. doi:10.1073/pnas.0803242105. PMC 2533212. PMID 18765814. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
- IUCN (2008)
- Jaramillo, A.; Johnson, M. T. J.; Rothfels, C. R.; Johnson, R. A. (2008). "The native and exotic avifauna of Easter Island: then and now". Boletin Chileno de Ornitologia 14: 8–21. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
- Remsen Jr., J. V.; et al. (07 Aug 2008). "Classification of birds of South America Part 01:". South American Classification Committee. American Ornithologists' Union. p. Proposal 209–211. Retrieved 04 Feb 2009.
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