Bird O'clock

10 Fascinating Facts About the Brushland Tinamou

The Brushland Tinamou, scientifically known as Nothoprocta cinerascens, is a bird species native to South America. It is found in the open grasslands of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.

This bird species is part of the family Tinamidae, which consists of 47 species of birds that are found only in Central and South America. These birds are small, flightless, and have plump bodies that are typically brown or grey in colour.


Field Identification

The Brushland Tinamou has a plump body with short legs. It typically measures between 28-33 cm in length and weighs between 220-310 g.

It has a brownish-grey head, neck, and breast, with a white belly. The wings are brownish with a white patch, while the tail feathers are blackish-brown with white tips.

The beak is black, and the eyes are yellow.

Similar Species

The Brushland Tinamou can be easily mistaken for the Ornate Tinamou (Nothoprocta ornata) and the Andean Tinamou (Nothoprocta pentlandii) due to their similar size and appearance. However, the Ornate Tinamou has a distinctive black and white neck pattern, while the Andean Tinamou has a reddish-brown head and neck.


The Brushland Tinamou has two different plumages, which are the juvenile and adult plumages. The juvenile plumage is similar to that of the adult but has more brownish feather tips.

The adult plumage is greyish-brown with white underparts.


Brushland Tinamous have at least one pre-basic molt each year, which typically happens during October and November. During this time, the birds will replace their old feathers with new ones.

After the molt, the birds will look much cleaner and brighter than before.

Conservation Status

The Brushland Tinamou is classified as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to the bird’s large population size and extensive range.


Overall, the Brushland Tinamou is an interesting bird species that inhabits the open grasslands of South America. Its distinctive greyish-brown plumage and black beak make it easy to identify in its natural habitat.

While it is similar in appearance to other Tinamou species, it has distinguishing features that make it unique. Its conservation status is of least concern, which confirms that this bird species is thriving.

Systematics History

The Brushland Tinamou, Nothoprocta cinerascens, belongs to the order Tinamiformes, within the family Tinamidae of South and Central America. As might be expected, the systematics of this family have an extensive history of being unclear which led to constant changes to the classification of the Brushland Tinamou.

Geographic Variation

The Brushland Tinamou is found in arid and semi-arid habitat across a range of elevations, from lowlands to mountains up to 4000m. There is geographic variation in the plumage, although the extent of these variations remains unclear.

Some speculation exists that there may be as many as eight subspecies of Brushland Tinamou across its range.


The Brushland Tinamou has a number of subspecies, including N.c pallida, N.c eremita, N.c minimus, N.c parecis, N.c cinerascens, N.c arenarum, and N.c atacamensis. These subspecies are divided into three groups: the eastern group (N.c parecis, N.c cinerascens, and N.c arenarum), the central group (N.

c. pallida and N.c eremita) and the western group (N.

c. minimus and N.c atacamensis).

These subspecies differ morphologically, most notably, in the size and shape of their feathers, though these differences are slight.

Related species

The Brushland Tinamou is closely related to other birds in its family, the Tinamidae. Some related species include Andean Tinamou (Nothoprocta pentlandii), Ornate Tinamou (Nothoprocta ornata), White-tufted Grebe (Rollandia rolland), and the Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis).

Insects, arthropods, and small seeds comprise the most crucial food component of these birds.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Historical changes to the distribution of Brushland Tinamou have not been thoroughly documented. However, today’s populations face challenges, with habitat destruction and hunting being the most pressing.

Besides, modern agricultural techniques have impacted their populations since the Brushland Tinamou feeds on plants and insects found in the brush. The conversion of grassland habitats to agricultural land, coupled with an increased use of pesticides, has negatively impacted their food sources, and thus population densities.

Nevertheless, researchers discovered several new populations where the bird’s presence was thought unlikely. In areas where flocks lived undisturbed, the birds could regularly be found in a range of density, typically from single birds up to flocks of several dozen- as high as 60 individuals.

This species has a wide distribution, and it is probably more abundant than is generally assumed, although local populations are affected by habitat alteration.

The Brushland Tinamou has no known major natural predators except for larger birds of prey such as Hawks, Eagles, and Caracaras.

Brushland Tinamou nests are tough to find since they are typically hidden by vegetation. This makes it difficult for researchers to assess how human activities are affecting the birds’ breeding and nesting behaviors over the years.


The Brushland Tinamou, Nothoprocta cinerascens, is an intriguing bird species found in the open grasslands of South America. Its geographic variation and subspecies have been a source of many studies.

Despite some pressures exerted by human activity, the Brushland Tinamou seems to be somewhat resilient. However, careful management of habitat is necessary to ensure the continued survival of the species.


The Brushland Tinamou is a terrestrial bird species that thrives in arid and semi-arid habitats such as open scrublands, grasslands, and shrublands with scattered trees and bushes. The bird prefers slightly more densely vegetated landscapes than its related species.

In Argentina and Chile, the Brushland Tinamou lives across a range of elevations, from the lowlands up to approximately 4,000 meters in the Andean foothills. In Peru and Bolivia, this bird species is restricted to the high Andean plateaus.

The Brushland Tinamous habitat is rapidly disappearing due to human activities, including farming, mining, and urbanization. This species is also impacted by hunting, both legal and illegal.

In Chile, for example, hunting this bird is legal with limits; in Argentina, it is totally illegal to hunt the Brushland Tinamou.

Movements and Migration

In research, some studies have shown that Brushland Tinamous are not migratory, which suggests that, throughout the year, populations stay in one location. However, other studies have shown that these birds might travel considerable distances within their home range to take advantage of obtainable food sources.

During the dry season, young birds tend to disperse further from their hatching site, particularly in search of food.

The Brushland Tinamou is active during the day and night, but most frequently seen basking in the sun during the late afternoon.

They tend to be quite quiet and solitary or found in small groups. They are ground-dwelling and only fly for short distances if threatened.

With running and short flights, they mainly avoid non-predatory threats such as vehicles or humans. Furthermore, any movements made by the Brushland Tinamou are generally to secure food sources, escape from predators, or avoid unsuitable weather conditions.

During periods of precipitation, which can be scarce in their habitat, the species will move to more vegetated areas, and food sources become abundant. Even with the limited information available, researchers hypothesize that these birds are likely opportunistic in their movements.

In terms of breeding, Brushland Tinamous are monogamous and solitary apart from mating. Their mating behaviors remain poorly understood, but they breed during the austral summer season, which is from September to March.

During this period, the males develop a territory and breeding call, often with a unique sound specific to the male. Nests are built in the ground, usually under a shrub or plant, and females lay two to three eggs.

The nest is built with fine twigs, leaves and occasionally with grass. Both parents share incubation duties and raise chicks.


In conclusion, the Brushland Tinamou, Nothoprocta cinerascens, lives in arid and semi-arid habitats across different elevations up to 4000 meters in the Andean foothills. They are not migratory, but individuals might travel within their range, primarily to find food during droughts.

During the breeding season, they are monogamous, and after hatching, both parents care for the offspring. As this species’ habitat is threatened by human activities, it is crucial to ensure responsible and sustainable management of its range to maintain this species’ population.

Understanding the Brushland Tinamou’s habitat preference and its movements and migration patterns will play a crucial role in any establishments towards that goal.

Diet and Foraging


The Brushland Tinamou is primarily a herbivore but will occasionally consume small insects such as grasshoppers and insects nymphs. Its beak and feet are adapted to its herbivorous diet.

The Brushland Tinamou forages on the ground, using its beak to probe soil and vegetation for seeds, fruits, and insects.


The Birds diet varies throughout its range and across the seasons due to the availability of food. In areas where vegetation is abundant, the Brushland Tinamou feeds mainly on seeds and shoots of shrubs and bushes.

In areas with less vegetation, it is entirely dependent on seeds and fruits. Insects are an essential part of their diet, with the bird consuming small insects, including several lepidopteran and beetles larvae.

Insects provide the necessary protein and amino acids required for the birds metabolic needs.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Being a small-bodied bird, the Brushland Tinamou has a high metabolic rate, driven largely by the need to thermoregulate their body temperature in extreme environments. Its substantial metabolic rate is partly achieved by its high body surface area-to-volume ratio.

The birds small body size helps it maintain its internal body temperature even during cold periods. Further, metabolism is a high-heat production process, and paired with thermoregulatory mechanisms, allowing the bird to survive in arid climates, despite its high metabolic rate.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Brushland Tinamou is a relatively silent species, making its vocalization less abundant than some other birds. The species generally makes a single, distinctive peaked note, typically from a resting or roosting position on the ground.

Other vocalizations heard from these birds include a nasal sneeze-like vocalization.

The peak note of the Brushland Tinamou sounds like tsip-pee and is loud enough to be heard within a distance.

This particular vocalization is often used during courtship as the males advertise their territories and attract females. Brushland Tinamous are not considered to be songbirds, but individuals in captivity have occasionally been reported to develop a whistle-like vocalization.

Other reports have suggested that the Brushland Tinamou’s noisy territorial calls are likely to be precisely tailored for communication in the dry desert habitat.


The Brushland Tinamou is a mainly herbivorous bird species that is occasionally known to consume small insects. Its diet varies depending on the location and seasonal availability.

The bird’s high metabolic rate enables it to live in arid conditions, despite its relatively small body size. The Brushland Tinamou makes few but distinctive vocalizations, with the peak note being the most widely heard.

Despite being deemed unremarkable vocally overall, researchers hypothesize that their vocal repertoire is quantitatively and qualitatively different from song birds or the other birds in their range and habitat.



The Brushland Tinamou is primarily ground-dwelling and can be active both during the day and night. It moves around primarily through running, and given the right resources, can move quickly when needed.

This species does have the ability to fly, but in general, they limit their flight to short distances, usually to escape predators or travel to higher ground.

Self Maintenance

The Brushland Tinamou is a very alert bird, constantly observing its surroundings. The species dustbathes frequently, along with preening itself, which helps maintain healthy feather conditions, and keeps the bird better insulated against the cold.

Agonistic and Sexual Behavior

This bird species is typically solitary, except during the breeding season, where the males will establish territories and attract females. These birds engage in agonistic behaviors such as chasing, posturing, and even combat with males competing for females.

During courtship, the males will call out from dense brush and protected habitats, advertising their territory. Vocalizations, along with wing and beak displays, are often utilized by both sexes during mating periods.


The Brushland Tinamou has a prolonged breeding season, and breeding occurs over the Austral summer from September to March. It is a monogamous bird and forms pairs for the breeding season.

After mating, the female will lay two to three eggs in shallow scrapes in the ground. The nesting period ranges from about 30 days before hatching, more or less, and during this period, both parents share incubation duties and care of the young.

Demography and Populations

Brushland Tinamou populations face several threats, including habitat fragmentation, hunting, and harvesting of prey. There is substantial scientific interest in the bird, but data on some aspects of the populations have not been well collected and accurately recorded.

Historically, the population trend for Brushland Tinamou is not well known besides fluctuations according to precipitation in their habitats. Overall, the range is wide, meaning that any decline in populations of notable significance could result in a corresponding concern for the preservation of the species across the range.

In several regions, hunting of this bird species is endemic, with hunting either for subsistence, sport, or to mitigate crop damage. This species is at steady risk from continuous habitat loss due to human development, such as mining, logging, and industrial farming.

Further, grazing can impact this species negatively through overuse and damage to food and nesting habitat.

Nevertheless, data on this birds population status are generally scarce, and collecting certain census data can be difficult due to its shy and solitary behavior and adapting to very arid habitats.

Meanwhile, wider research initiatives should focus on developing long-term population studies of the Brushland Tinamou populations to establish future conservation projects to evaluate their demographics and future success of the species.


The Brushland Tinamou is a fascinating bird species that displays a range of behaviors, including self-maintenance, agonistic, and sexual behavior. During breeding, the species is monogamous, and both parents share incubation and care duties of the young.

However, populations of this bird species currently face a range of threats, including habitat degradation, hunting, and climate change. Without proper conservation measures in place, the Brushland Tinamou population could be in decline with increased habitat clearance, and thus attention should be paid to ensure proper preservation of any remaining species habitat and limit human activities that may run against their sustainability.

The Brushland Tinamou, Nothoprocta cinerascens, is an intriguing bird species found in the open grasslands of South America, thriving best in arid and semi-arid landscapes. Its geographic variation and subspecies have been a source of many studies.

Brushland Tinamous are not migratory but are known to travel within their range, primarily to find food during droughts or to breed. The Bird primarily moves around through running except to escape predators or travel to higher ground.

During breeding, it is monogamous, and both parents share incubation and care duties of the young. However, brushland Tinamou populations face a range of threats, such as habitat fragmentation, hunting, and harvesting of prey, and recent habitat loss due to human development.

Science acknowledges these behaviors as significant and critical in mapping the future survival statuses of this species and ensures its habitat sustainability is respected.

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