Great Tinamou Tinamus major


Justification of Red List Category

Based on a model of future deforestation in the Amazon basin, and the species’s susceptibility to habitat fragmentation and hunting, it is suspected that its population will decline by 25-30% over the next three generations, and is therefore listed as Near Threatened.

Population justification
Partners in Flight estimate the total population to number 500,000-4,999,999 individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008).

Trend justification
This species is suspected to lose 14.8-18.5% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations (20 years) based on a model of Amazonian deforestation (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011).  Given the susceptibility of the species to hunting and/or trapping, it is therefore suspected to decline by a rate approaching 30% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Tinamus major has a wide distribution within the Neotropics, with 12 recognised subspecies (Cabot 1992, Sick 1997).  Subspecies robustus occurs in south-east Mexico, east Guatemala and Honduras, overlapping with percautus, also occuring in south-east Mexico as well as north Guatemala and Belize.  Subspecies fuscipennis ranges from north Nicaragua through Costa Rica to west Panama, overlapping with castaneiceps which occurs in south-west Costa Rica and west Panama.  Subspecies brunneiventris is endemic to south-central Panama.  Subspecies saturatus occurs in east Panama and north-west Colombia.  Subspecies latifrons is distributed in south-west Colombia and west Ecuador, where it is uncommon to rare (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Restall et al. 2006).  Subspecies zuliensis occurs in north-east Colombia and north Venezuela.  Subspecies peruvianus ranges from south-east Colombia and east Ecuador through Peru to north-east Bolivia and extreme west Brazil.  Subspecies serratus is endemic to north-west Brazil.  The nominate subspecies major ranges from east Venezuela through Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana to north-east Brazil (del Hoyo et al. 1992); this taxon is abundant where forest is intact (Restall et al. 2006).  Subspecies olivascens occurs in Amazonian Brazil (del Hoyo et al. 1992).


The species occurs in dense rainforest of both terra firme (non-flooded) and várzea (seasonally-flooded) types, up to 1,500 m.  It has also been recorded in secondary forests (Brooks 2004, Schelsky 2004).  It feeds on the forest floor, predominantly on berries, fruits and seeds, but will also take nuts and small animals such as insects, small molluscs and annelids (Cabot 1992, Sick 1997).  Breeding is generally between January and July, but perhaps all year round in Suriname where it has been recorded breeding in September.  The nest is made between the buttress roots of large trees (del Hoyo et al. 1992).


The species's main threat comes from habitat loss across its large range, in particular accelerating deforestation in Amazonia: despite its large range it is predicted to lose over 15% of its available habitat in the next three generations (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011).  It is likely to be sensitive to forest degradation (A. Lees in litt. 2011), both through a reduction in forest quality and because logging roads facilitate access to forests by hunters, who prize this species as game (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Peres 2000, A. Lees in litt. 2011).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
None is known.

Conservation Actions Proposed  Expand the protected area network to effectively protect IBAs.  Effectively resource and manage existing and new protected areas, utilising emerging opportunities to finance protected area management with the joint aims of reducing carbon emissions and maximizing biodiversity conservation.  Conservation on private lands, through expanding market pressures for sound land management and preventing forest clearance on lands unsuitable for agriculture, is also essential (Soares-Filho et al. 2006).


40-46 cm. Large, brown tinamou. Throat and centre of belly generally whitish, but otherwise overall coloration varies between subspecies from light to dark olive brown. Voice A haunting and beautiful call of seven tremulous whistled notes.


Text account compilers
Wheatley, H., Martin, R, Ekstrom, J., Symes, A., Khwaja, N., Butchart, S.

Guerta, R., Lees, A., Panjabi, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Tinamus major. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/10/2021.