Bird O'clock

Discover the Enchanting World of Brown Tinamous in South America

Are you a bird enthusiast or a nature lover who likes to observe different species of birds? If yes, then you might be interested in the Brown Tinamou a small bird that is native to South America.

Brown Tinamous are flightless birds that live in forests and shrubs. Let’s delve deeper into the identification, plumages, and behavior of this intriguing bird species.


Field Identification

The Brown Tinamou is a small bird that measures between 30-33 centimeters (11-13 inches) long and weighs about 300-350 grams (10-12 ounces). This bird species is predominantly brown and grey with small white spots that pepper its plumage.

The brown coloration is more pronounced on the upperparts and head of the bird while the lower parts are grey with white feathers on the vent and undertail coverts. The bird’s bill is short and light gray while its legs are also light-colored, making them blend in nicely with their surroundings.

Similar Species

The Brown Tinamou has several similar species, including the Grey Tinamou (Crypturellus duidae) and Ornate Tinamou (Nothoprocta ornata). The Grey Tinamou is almost identical to the Brown Tinamou, except that it has a darker grey coloration on the head and back.

The Ornate Tinamou, on the other hand, is more distinctive with intricate black and white patterns covering its body.


The Brown Tinamou has various plumages that vary depending on their age and gender. This bird species is sexually dimorphic, meaning that the males and females differ in coloration.

Males have a darker brownish-grey coloration on their heads while females have a lighter brownish-grey coloration.


The Brown Tinamou undergoes two major molts per year, with the primary molt occurring from November to February and the secondary molt occurring from June to August. During these molts, the bird sheds its feathers and replaces them with new ones.

The molting process can take up to 40 days, during which the bird may become flightless, making it more susceptible to predators.


The Brown Tinamou is a solitary bird that is active mainly during the day. During the breeding season, which is from September to March, both males and females communicate through a series of calls and songs.

These calls vary depending on the bird’s mood, and they may range from soft whistles to loud screeches. Brown Tinamous are omnivores, meaning that their diet consists of both plant and animal matter.

They mainly feed on fruits, seeds, insects, and small reptiles. They are known to scratch the forest floor with their feet to uncover their food, making them valuable dispersers of seeds.


The Brown Tinamou is an intriguing bird species with unique features that make it an exciting subject for bird watchers and nature lovers. If you are interested in observing this beautiful bird species, make sure to visit South America, where it is commonly found.

With its small size, flightless characteristics, and distinctive brown and grey plumages, the Brown Tinamou is a bird species that is sure to capture your attention and spark your curiosity about the fascinating world of bird watching.

Systematics History

The systematic history of a bird species usually involves the description of new species, subspecies, and determining the phylogenetic relationships between different species. The Brown Tinamou is no exception, and the description of new subspecies and the establishment of its phylogenetic relationships have been a topic of interest for many researchers over the years.

Geographic Variation

The Brown Tinamou is a widespread bird species that is found throughout tropical South America, including in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina. Due to its wide distribution, this bird species exhibits significant geographic variation in its morphology, coloration, and vocalizations.


There are currently 18 recognized subspecies of the Brown Tinamou, each of which exhibits distinct variation in its morphology, vocalizations, and geographic distribution:

1. C.

o. capnodes – Found in northeast Venezuela


C. o.

castaneiceps – Found in southeast Peru and northwest Bolivia

3. C.

o. cinerascens – Found in the eastern Andes of Colombia


C. o.

dilutus – Found in southeast Colombia, northern Ecuador, and northern Peru

5. C.

o. gilviventris – Found in eastern Ecuador and northeastern Peru


C. o.

hypospodius – Found in eastern Ecuador, northern Peru, and western Brazil

7. C.

o. jacobinus – Found in southern Colombia and northwestern Ecuador


C. o.

longipennis – Found in central Brazil

9. C.

o. maculosus – Found in northern Venezuela


C. o.

maritime – Found in northeastern Brazil

11. C.

o. nigriceps – Found in northern Colombia and northwest Venezuela


C. o.

obsoletus – Found in most of the Amazon Basin

13. C.

o. peruvianus – Found in central Peru


C. o.

petersi – Found in northeastern Brazil

15. C.

o. ravidus – Found in southern Bolivia and northern Argentina


C. o.

strigilifer – Found in eastern Brazil

17. C.

o. taczanowskii – Found in southeastern Peru and western Bolivia


C. o.

tobagensis – Found in Tobago

Related Species

The Brown Tinamou belongs to the Family Tinamidae, which contains a diverse group of birds that are found mainly in South and Central America. The Brown Tinamou is closely related to other Tinamou species, including the White-tufted Grebe (Rollandiarolland), and Brushland Tinamou (Nothoprocta cinerascens), which is found in the Andean regions of South America.

Recent phylogenetic studies have shown that these three species occupy several basal positions within the Tinamou family, indicating that they represent early divergences within the group.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The distribution of the Brown Tinamou has undergone significant changes over time due to several factors, including habitat loss, hunting, and climate change. Historical records suggest that this bird species was once much more widespread and abundant than it is today.

For example, it was once found in the coastal plains of northeast Brazil, a region where it is currently extirpated. Human activities have also contributed to the decline of the Brown Tinamou.

The loss of habitat due to deforestation, agricultural expansion, and urbanization has resulted in the fragmentation of their populations, making them vulnerable to hunting and predation. Climate change has also had an impact on the distribution of this bird species, with some populations being forced to migrate to higher altitudes to escape the effects of warming temperatures.

In conclusion, the Brown Tinamou is a bird species that exhibits significant geographic variation in its morphology, coloration, and vocalizations. There are currently 18 recognized subspecies of this bird species, each of which is distinct in its morphology and vocalizations.

Phylogenetic studies have shown that the Brown Tinamou is closely related to other Tinamou species and represents an early divergence within the Tinamou family. Finally, historical records suggest that this bird species has undergone significant changes in its distribution over time due to human activities and climate change.


The Brown Tinamou is a forest-dwelling bird species that is most commonly found in tropical and subtropical forests and woodlands of South America. They prefer areas with dense undergrowth, such as bamboo thickets and secondary forests with tangled shrubs, but they can also occur in open areas such as clearings and forest edges.

The Brown Tinamou is most frequently found in lowland forests, although it is reported to occur at elevations of up to 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) in the Andes.

Movements and Migration

The Brown Tinamou is generally a sedentary bird species, meaning that it does not migrate long distances like other bird species, such as swallows or geese. However, some populations of the Brown Tinamou do show some seasonal movements in response to changes in food availability and climatic conditions.

During the dry season, the availability of food and water may be reduced in some parts of the Brown Tinamou’s range, causing them to move in search of better conditions. They may move to different areas within their home range or even undertake short-distance migrations to other areas.

The Brown Tinamou’s movements are not well studied, and the extent of seasonal movements is still poorly known. Some populations, such as those in the western Amazon basin of Peru, may undertake movements in response to seasonal flooding of riverbanks and the formation of isolated forest patches on higher topographic relief.

These isolated patches can provide suitable breeding habitats for Brown Tinamous, making them important areas for conservation.


Habitat loss and degradation are significant threats to the Brown Tinamou, as they are to many forest-dwelling bird species. Deforestation and agricultural expansion are the primary drivers of habitat loss, with mining, logging, and hydroelectric development also causing significant destruction of their habitat.

The impact of hunting on Brown Tinamous is not well studied, but they are known to be hunted for their meat and feathers in some areas of their range. Overhunting can lead to declines in population size, making it an important factor to consider.

To conserve the Brown Tinamou, it is important to protect its habitat from further destruction and degradation. This can be achieved by promoting sustainable land use practices, such as agroforestry and sustainable logging.

Protected areas can also play an important role in providing safe habitats for Brown Tinamous and other forest-dwelling bird species. More research is needed to better understand the movements, ecology, and conservation requirements of the Brown Tinamou.

This information can help inform conservation strategies and policies to protect this unique bird species and maintain the integrity of their habitats.


The Brown Tinamou is a forest-dwelling bird species that is most commonly found in tropical and subtropical forests and woodlands of South America. Although it is generally a sedentary bird species, some populations may undertake seasonal movements to search for better food and water conditions.

Habitat loss and degradation, along with overhunting, are significant threats to the Brown Tinamou, making conservation efforts crucial for their survival. Further research is needed to better understand their movements, ecology, and conservation requirements and promote better practices that can protect this bird species and its habitat from further destruction.

Diet and Foraging


Brown Tinamous are primarily omnivorous, meaning they feed on both plant and animal material. The majority of their diet consists of fruits and seeds, with about 70% of their diet being composed of fruits from palms, figs, and Melastomataceae.

They also feed on insects, small reptiles, and other invertebrates. These birds use their strong bill to pluck fruits from trees and scoop them up from the ground.

They also forage on the forest floor, scratching and probing for seeds and invertebrates. They are capable fliers, but typically forage on the ground and are more likely to flush and run when disturbed.


The Brown Tinamou’s diet varies depending on the availability of food in their environment. During the dry season, when fruit availability is low, they feed predominantly on seeds and invertebrates.

Some studies have shown that Brown Tinamous can change their diet quickly in response to changes in food availability, indicating a high degree of dietary flexibility.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Due to their small size and restricted range, the Brown Tinamou conserves energy by shutting down most of its body systems when not active, allowing them to cope with the limited food and water available in their environment. Their metabolism is suppressed when they are at rest, which helps them conserve energy.

These birds also have a unique ability to regulate their body temperature in response to changes in environmental temperature. When they are exposed to low temperatures, they will reduce blood flow to their extremities and generate heat by increasing their metabolic rate.

When they are exposed to hot environments, they will increase blood flow to their extremities and release heat through their feet and legs. Sounds and Vocal



The Brown Tinamou is a vocal species, and males and females commonly communicate using several types of calls and songs.

The calls and songs of Brown Tinamous vary depending on their mood and the context of the situation. During the breeding season, which occurs from September to March, males can be heard emitting low, soft whistles.

These whistles can be used by males to advertise their presence to potential mates and to establish their territory. Females respond to these calls with a soft “whee” sound.

Both males and females can produce a series of loud screeches when triggered by a predator or perceived threat. These screeches can serve as a warning signal to others of the presence of danger.

Additionally, these birds can produce a series of clucking and grunting sounds while feeding or exploring their environment. The Brown Tinamou’s vocalizations are unique and complex and can be used to distinguish populations and subspecies.

Understanding the nuances of their vocalizations can provide important insights into their behavior, ecology, and population dynamics.


The Brown Tinamou’s diet and foraging behavior is varied and flexible, allowing them to adjust their diet depending on the availability of food in their environment. Their unique ability to regulate their metabolism and body temperature is an adaptation to their small size and the limited food and water available in their habitat.

This bird species has a complex vocal behavior, with multiple calls and songs that are used for communication and warning signals. Further research is needed to better understand the nuances of their vocalizations and how they relate to their social behavior, ecology, and conservation requirements.

Overall, the Brown Tinamou is an intriguing species that provides important insights into the ecology and behavior of tropical forest birds.



The Brown Tinamou is generally a ground-dwelling bird species, moving around their environment by running and walking. They are also capable fliers, but their flight is generally limited to short distances, such as when they flee predators.

They are not strong or sustained fliers due to their small wings and low body mass.


The Brown Tinamou is capable of grooming and preening itself, a behavior that helps maintain their feathers in good condition. Feathers play a crucial role in insulation, making them an integral part of their adaptation to the tropical environment.

Brown Tinamou’s also dust-bathe, using dry soil or sand to remove excess oils and dirt from their feathers. Agonistic


Brown Tinamous can be territorial birds, and both males and females will defend their territory from intruders.

They use loud calls and vocalizations to establish their presence and warning signals to potential competitors. They will use their beak to peck aggressors and will often engage in physical intimidation to drive other birds back.



Male and females exhibit different sexual behavior during the breeding season, which occurs from September to March. Males will establish their territory and advertise their presence to potential mates using a series of low, soft whistles.

They will then display their plumage and perform courtship displays to attract a mate. Females will assess the male’s reproductive potential based on the quality of their territory and the quality of their courtship display.

Once a mate has been chosen, a pair bond will be formed, which can last for several years. The female will construct a nest on the ground or in the undergrowth, and both parents will share responsibilities for incubating the eggs and rearing the chicks.


The Brown Tinamou’s breeding season is from September to March, with peak breeding activity typically occurring in November and December. They have a polygynous mating system, meaning that males can mate with multiple females.

Males establish their territories during the breeding season and advertise their presence to potential mates using a series of low, soft whistles. Once a female has been chosen, the male will perform courtship displays to attract the female.

Courtship displays include puffing up the neck feathers, raising the tail, and moving the head and body in a circular motion. Once a pair bond has been formed, the female will construct a nest, which is typically a shallow depression on the ground covered with leaves and other plant material.

The female will lay three to four eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about 17-19 days. Chicks are precocial and can leave the nest within hours of hatching.

Demography and Populations

The Brown Tinamou’s population size and distribution are not well known due to their elusive nature and cryptic behavior. However, their populations are declining due to habitat loss and degradation, overhunting, and human disturbance.

The International Union for

Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the Brown Tinamou as a species of “Least Concern” due to its relatively wide distribution and apparent stable population. Nevertheless, this classification may need to be revisited as more information becomes available on population trends and the impact of anthropogenic activities on this bird species.

To conserve

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