Tinamou, a name applied to the tinamidoe, a family of gallinaceous birds peculiar to South America. The bill is moderate, rather straight, flattened, the base covered by a membrane, and the tip suddenly hooked; wings short and concave; tail short or wanting; tarsi rather long, scaled in front, and without spurs; toes long, with stout blunt claws, the hind one sometimes wanting. They live in the fields on the borders of woods, are low and heavy fliers, but rapid runners, and feed on grains, fruits, and insects; they lay about a dozen eggs, on the ground in tufts of grass, and the young when hatched soon disperse; when pursued they endeavor to hide in the bushes, and are often caught by a noose on the end of a stick; their flesh is exceedingly good; they vary from 6 to 18 in. in length, and are usually of a reddish or gray brown. In the genus tlnamus (Lath.; cryjrturus, Illig.), the bill is shorter than the head, the upper mandible the longer, and the nostrils in the middle; first quill short, fourth and fifth longest; hind toe small and elevated.
The great tinamou (T. Brasiliensis, Lath.) is about 15 in. long, of a deep olive color, slightly and narrowly banded with black, with crown red and secondaries red and black; pale reddish ash below; it is found in Guiana and Brazil, resembling in size, habits, colors, and quality of flesh the partridges of the old world; though gentle and timid, it is said not to be capable of domestication. The males have a trembling plaintive whistle to warn of danger or attract the females; they live in couples during breeding time, at other seasons in small flocks. The nest is made on the ground in a slight hollow, covered with dry grasses; they lay twice a year; the young follow the parent as soon as hatched. Other genera are rhyn-cliotus (Spix), with the species R. rufescens (Wagl.) or rufescent tinamou, inhabiting the borders of lakes and the swampy thickets of Paraguay in small troops; and tinamotis (Vig.), with three or four species, found in high desert places, some distance from fresh water.