Christopher Taylor Bird Nature Wildlife Mammal Photography
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Great Tinamou Picture

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The Great Tinamou Tinamus major is a species of tinamou ground bird native to Central and South America. There are several subspecies, mostly differentiated by their coloration:

  • T. M. percautus occurs in southern Mexico and Guatemala
  • T. M. robustus occurs in central Guatemala to northern Nicaragua
  • T. M. fuscipennis occurs in east Nicaragua to Panama
  • T. M. castaneiceps occurs in south-west Costa Rica and western Panama
  • T. M. brunniventris occurs in central Panama
  • T. M. saturatus occurs in eastern Panama and northern Colombia
  • T. M. latifrons occurs in western Colombia and western Ecuador
  • T. M. zuliensis occurs in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela
  • T. M. major occurs in the Guianas and northern Brazil
  • T. M. olivascens occurs in eastern Brazil
  • T. M. peruvianus occurs in eastern Colombia, eastern Ecuador and eastern Peru
  • T. M. serratus occurs in southern Venezuela and western Brazil


Great Tinamou is approximately 43 cm long, 1100 g in weight and size and shape of a small turkey. 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.


The picture at the right is a polygynandrous species, and one that features exclusive male parental care. A female will mate with a male and lay an average of four eggs which he then incubates until hatching. He cares for the chicks for approximately 3 weeks 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 and roam the dark understory alone, seeking seeds, fruit, and small animals such as insects, spiders, frogs and small lizards in the leaf litter.


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. This species is widespread throughout its large range, thus the Great Tinamou is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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