Great Tinamou

A large bird with the tiniest heart and the highest percentage of skeletal muscles used for locomotion

Tony Castro

Known for its elusive nature and the remarkable ability to blend into the dense forest underbrush. This species, ranging in length from 38 to 46 cm (15-18 inches), is the largest within its family. Its plumage is a muted dark olive-green, providing exceptional camouflage that allows it to remain undetected amidst the forest’s foliage.

The Great Tinamou’s ability to fly is often overshadowed by its preference for a terrestrial lifestyle. While it is capable of short bursts of flight, this bird is better adapted to life on the ground, where it walks with a deliberate, almost stately gait. Its wings are more frequently used to help it escape predators or to glide down from roosting sites in the trees.

The reproductive behaviors of the Great Tinamou are particularly intriguing. They are polygynandrous, meaning that males and females may mate with multiple partners during the breeding season. However, the male takes on the crucial role of incubation, tending to the eggs with great care and nurturing the chicks once they hatch. This unusual role reversal is a distinctive characteristic of tinamous and other bird families.

The diet of the Great Tinamou is as varied as the ecosystem it inhabits. It feeds on a wide range of forest bounties, including seeds, fruits, and several small animals such as insects, frogs, spiders, and lizards. Among its preferred dietary sources are the flowering plants of the Annonaceae, Sapotaceae, Myrtaceae, and Lauraceae families, which are nutritious and help in seed dispersal, contributing to the health of tropical forests.

Remarkably, the Great Tinamou seems less affected by some common threats that plague other bird species, such as hunting pressure and forest fragmentation. This resilience is partly due to its nesting strategy; it places its nests at the base of trees rather than in the canopy, making it less vulnerable to certain habitat disturbance.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Belize
2020
Bolivia
2020
Brazil
2020
Colombia
2020
Costa Rica
2020
Ecuador
2020
French Guiana
2020
Guatemala
2020
Guyana
2020
Honduras
2020
Mexico
2020
Nicaragua
2020
Panama
2020
Peru
2020
Suriname
2020
Venezuela
2020

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No