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Little Tinamou

Crypturellus soui

The Little Tinamou, Crypturellus soui, is a diminutive and elusive bird, a member of the Tinamidae family. It bears a resemblance to ground-dwelling birds such as quail and grouse, yet it is not closely related to these groups. This species is characterized by its sooty-brown plumage, which transitions to grey on the head, and a cinnamon buff underside, with females exhibiting a lighter shade. Both sexes are almost tailless, and their legs may be grey, olive, or yellow. The bird measures approximately 22 to 24 cm in length and weighs around 220 g.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Little Tinamou, look for its unbarred sooty-brown plumage and grey head. The foreneck is whitish, and the underside is cinnamon buff. The bird's small stature and near absence of a tail are also distinctive features. In the field, they are more often heard than seen, so their soft, descending whinny call can be a reliable indicator of their presence.


The Little Tinamou thrives in tropical lowland forests, including rivers-edge forests, lowland evergreen forest, secondary forest, and lowland shrublands up to an altitude of 2,000 m. They have also adapted to cleared forests and can be found in plantations or farmed land.


This species is widespread across Central and South America and is also found on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. It has a broad range, with various subspecies occupying specific regions from southern Mexico to northern Bolivia and central and eastern Peru.


The Little Tinamou is a shy and secretive bird, often detected by its distinctive call rather than sight. They are pair-solitary animals, highly territorial, and may maintain the same territory for years. They feed on seeds, berries, and some insects, and while capable of flight, they prefer to run, taking to the air only when necessary.

Song & Calls

Both sexes produce a soft, descending whinny call, which can also be a series of single notes with an increasing tempo towards the end. This call is often the most reliable way to detect their presence in their natural habitat.


Breeding season spans from May to October. The female performs courtship displays, and the male incubates the eggs, showing strong nest attendance. The nest is a simple depression on the forest floor, sometimes lined with leaves. They typically lay two glossy dark-purple eggs, and the young are precocial, capable of pecking the ground on their first day and running almost immediately after hatching. Flight is possible by weeks 3-4, and egg laying begins at one year old.

Similar Species

Due to its unique characteristics and calls, the Little Tinamou is not easily confused with other species in its range.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Little Tinamou consists of seeds, berries, and some insects. They forage on the forest floor, pecking at the ground to find food.

Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the Little Tinamou as Least Concern, with an extensive occurrence range of 9,500,000 km². Despite their abundance, their secretive nature makes them a less frequently sighted species.

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Little Tinamous on Birda

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Ben Gloag
25 Mar 2024 - 11:30pm

More Tinamous

A photo of a Small-billed Tinamou (Crypturellus parvirostris)

Small-billed Tinamou

Crypturellus parvirostris
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