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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 13:20 EDT

Great Tinamou

The Great Tinamou is a species of bird native to Central and South America, one of about 47 species of tinamou. It is 17 inches long, 38.8 ounces in weight and approximately the size and shape of a small turkey. It is gray-brown in color and well-camouflaged in the rainforest under-story*. 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.

This 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 under-story alone, seeking seeds, fruit, and small animals such as insects, spiders, frogs and small lizards in the leaf litter.

*Under-story: The smaller trees and shrubs that are beneath taller trees in the forest.

*Polygynandrous: Having more than wife or mate.

Great Tinamou