The tinamou bird is a small bird that makes its home on the ground

The tinamou bird is a small bird that makes its home on the ground. Just about the size of a partridge, they are shy and secretive, and are rarely seen. Their plumage provides them excellent camouflage, with patterns that range from light to dark gray or brown.

Skunks, foxes, armadillos and even humans have a more difficult time locating them because they sit perfectly still on the ground and allow their plumage to blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings.

These birds are slightly different than a ratite, in that they have a breastbone and are able to fly. However, since they tire easily, they have become a running bird and will try to out run a predator if their camouflage isn't effective enough to keep them safe.

There are about 47 different species of this bird which live in South America and Mexico. In South America, they inhabit mostly dark, dense forest areas in the lowlands. However, in Mexico, they have been found in habitats such as plains, forest and mountain. There are a small number of species that will inhabit open, grassy areas, but even they are shy and careful birds. They could easily be mistaken for other birds their size such as quail or grouse.

However, these birds are of Gondwanan origin and are classified in a family all by themselves, the family Tinamidae, and in the order Tinamiformes. Distantly related to ratites, flightless birds, such as the emu, kiwi and rheas, the tinamous are thought to be one of the most ancient birds known.

The smallest species is the Dwarf Nothura, weighing in at a mere 42 grams, or 1.4 ounces, and only 6 inches long. At the other end of the spectrum, the largest one is the Gray Tinamou. This species weighs an average of 3.6 pounds and can be up to 20 inches in length. In general, females are larger than their male counterparts.

Some species breed year round, while others seem to have specific breeding seasons. For the most part,they are polygamous, gathering up to three females to lay there eggs in one nest. Some female species will lay eggs in more than one nest. The female will lay up to a dozen beautifully colored eggs. The eggs have a hard porcelain-like shell and can be colored purple, wine red, green or turquoise.

The Ornate is one species where the male and female pair off. The male of this species does the incubation, and when the young are born, they can fly a few weeks after hatching.They can be found both alone or in pairs.

This species of bird is also known for being vocal. The sounds resemble organ-like notes and sometimes sound like sad whistling noises.

Insects, termites, seeds, and berries make up much of the tinamou diet, although they will also eat lizards and mice on occasion.

Tinamou apparently taste like strong chicken, and are hunted regularly. Although there are several species that could be threatened, overall, the tinamou species is surviving quite well.

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