Great Tinamou (Tinamus major)

Great Tinamou

[order] TINAMIFORMES | [family] Tinamidae | [latin] Tinamus major | [authority] Gmelin, 1789 | [UK] Great Tinamou | [FR] Grand Tinamou | [DE] Grosstinamu | [ES] Tinamu Olivaceo | [NL] Grote Tinamoe


Monotypic species


Tinamous are paleognaths related to the flightless ratites. They are probably close in appearance to the flying ancestors of the ratites. Unlike other Ratites, Tinamous can fly, although in general, they are not strong fliers. Tinamous sleep on the ground at night. Exceptions are members of the genus Tinamus, which roost in trees, choosing horizontal branches or tangled lianas and perching without using the toes. This genus comprises the larger of the Tinamou species.

Physical charateristics

It is grey-brown in color barred with black, paler and greyer below, flanks barred black, belly whitish and undertail cinnamon. Crown and neck rufous, occipital crest and supercilium blackish. Its legs are blue-grey in color. All these features enable Great Tinamou to be well-camouflaged in the rainforest understory. The Great Tinamou has a distinctive call, three short but powerful piping notes which can be heard in its rainforest habitat in the early evenings.

Listen to the sound of Great Tinamou

[audio: Tinamou.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: cm wingspan max.: cm
size min.: 40 cm size max.: 46 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 5   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 6  


Latin America : South Mexico through Amazonia


Great Tinamou lives in subtropical/ tropical forest such as rainforest, swamp forest and cloud forest at altitude 1,500 m. Its nest can be found at the base of a tree.


They nest on the ground between tree buttresses and lay large (56-63 mm) turquoise eggs. Males are reluctant to leave the eggs, and have been reported to remain motionless while incubating. This species is known for its exclusive male parental care. A female will mate with a male and lay an average of four eggs which are incubated by the male until hatching. The male cares for the chicks for approximately 20 days before moving on to find another female. Meanwhile, the female has left clutches of eggs with other males. She may start nests with five or six males during each 8-month-long breeding season, leaving all parental care to the males. The eggs are large, shiny, and bright blue in color, and the nests are usually rudimentary scrapings in the buttress roots of trees. Except during mating, when a pair stay together until the eggs are laid, Great Tinamous are solitary.

Feeding habits

Mostly berries, fruit and seeds, but also insects and invertebrates are eaten. Feeds by walking forest ground.

Video Great Tinamou


copyright: R. Garrigues


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Breeding species in Suriname which is very hard to see but often heard. Breeds all year around in Suriname, mostly January-July.
Great Tinamou status Least Concern


Sedentary in all of its range, but not well known

Distribution map

Great Tinamou distribution range map

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