The tinamous are one of the most ancient groups of bird, members of a South American bird family of about 47 species in 9 genera. Although they look similar to other ground-dwelling birds like quail and grouse, they have no close relatives and are classified as a single family. The tinamous range is from South America and north to Mexico. They occur in a wide range of habitats.

Tinamous are distantly related to the ratites, the order Struthioniiformes that includes the rheas, Emu, and kiwi. Although the fossil record in South America is generally poor, the known tinamou fossil record goes back 10 million years.

Although some species are quite common, they are very secretive and rarely seen. Tinamous lay several eggs which are attractively colored and have a hard gloss like porcelain. The young are precocial, and can run almost as soon as they hatch. They eat a variety of food including insects and berries.