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Brown Tinamou Picture

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The Brown Tinamou (Crypturellus obsoletus) is a dumpy, brownish ground bird found in humid lowland and montane forest in tropical and subtropical South America.


All tinamou are from the family Tinamidae, and in the larger scheme are also Ratites. Unlike other Ratites, Tinamous can fly, although in general, they are not strong fliers. All ratites evolved from prehistoric flying birds, and Tinamous are the closest living relative of these birds.


Its distribution is highly disjunct with the subspecies being distributed as follows:

  • C. obsoletus obsoletus, the nominate race, occurs in the Atlantic forest in southeastern Brazil, eastern Paraguay and Misiones, Argentina.
  • C. obsoletus griseiventris occurs throghout the valley of Rio Tapajós, Brazil; southwestern Pará, southeastern Amazonas, and central Mato Grosso.
  • C. obsoletus hypochraceus occurs in upper Rio Madeira valley in central Rondônia, Brazil.
  • C. obsoletus punensis occurs in the Yungas of central Bolivia and extreme southeastern Peru.
  • C. obsoletus traylori, Traylor's Tinamou, occurs in the Marcapata Valley of central Cusco, southeastern Peru.
  • C. obsoletus ochraceiventris occurs along the east Andean slopes in central Peru; Huanuco, Pasco, Junín, northern Ayacucho, and Cusco.
  • C. obsoletus castaneus occurs east of the Andes in northern Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.
  • C. obsoletus knoxi occurs in sub-tropical northwestern Venezuela.
  • C. obsoletus cerviniventris occurs in northern Venezuela.

Additionally, there are records from north Mato Grosso in Brazil, but it remains unclear which subspecies is involved. Most subspecies occur in highlands, but hypochraceus, griseiventris, and the southern populations of the nominate taxon occur in lowlands. It is uncommon to rare in most of its range, but commoner in southeastern Brazil, where it is the most frequently encountered member of its genus.


Crypturellus is formed from three Latin or Greek words. kruptos meaning covered or hidden, oura meaning tail, and ellus meaning diminutive. Therefore Crypturellus means small hidden tail.


The Brown Tinamou is superficially similar to a quail, but unrelated as it, along with other tinamous, belongs in the Paleognathae. It is approximately 25"?30 cm (9.8"?12 in) in length and it weighs about 350"?550 g (12"?19 oz). Depending on the subspecies involved, the upperparts vary from dark sooty-brown to bright chestnut and the underparts, which usually are paler than the upperparts, vary from chestnut to light ochraceous. The subspecies griseiventris is unique in having pale buff-grey underparts. All subspecies can be separated from the superficially similar Little Tinamou by the greyish (rather than whitish) throat. Females are typically larger and more rufescent than the males.


As other tinamous of its genus, it is a shy, ground-dwelling species, which usually is encountered singly or in pairs. It feeds on fruits, insects, and seeds. The female lays 4-5 deep pink to dark glossy brown eggs on the ground; typically in a small depression at the base of a tree. Its song consists of loud, high-pitches whistles, but exact structure and timbre vary over its range.

Range and habitat

The Brown Tinamou is located in northern Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, northern and southern Brazil, extreme northeastern Argentina, eastern Bolivia, and eastern Paraguay. They may also be in Uruguay.

They live in tropical and sub-tropical moist lowland and montane forests, preferring elevations between 1,300"?2,900 m (4,300"?9,500 ft).


The IUCN classifies the Brown Tinamou as Least Concern, with an occurrence range of 1,700,000 km2 (660,000 sq mi).

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