Grey Tinamou Tinamus tao


Justification of Red List Category

Based on a model of future deforestation in the Amazon basin, the species's sensitivity to habitat fragmentation and disturbance and its vulnerability to hunting, it is suspected that the population of this species will decline rapidly over the next three generations, and it is therefore classified as Vulnerable.

Population justification
This species is described as uncommon (Stotz et al. 1996). Based on the recorded population density of one individual/km2 in Peru (Terborgh et al. 1990) and the area of the species's mapped range (3,800,000 km2), and assuming that 10-12% of the range is occupied, the population is estimated to fall within the band 392,500 - 429,800 individuals, roughly equating to 261,600 – 286,500 mature individuals. Therefore, the species is placed here in the band 100,000 – 499,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to lose 29.5-36.8% 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 ≥ 30% over three generations. An analysis of deforestation between 2000 and 2012 found that forest within the species's range was lost at a rate equivalent to 10.9% over three generation lengths (Tracewski et al. 2016).

Distribution and population

Tinamus tao occurs on the eastern slopes of the Andes and in Brazil's cerrado (dry savanna woodland). Subspecies larensis occurs in central Colombia and north-west Venezuela. Subspecies kleei is distributed from south-central Colombia and east Ecuador through Peru to east Bolivia and west Brazil. Subspecies septentrionalis occurs in north-west Venezuela, and possibly in Guyana although it has not been recorded there in recent times (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Restall et al. 2006). The nominate subspecies is endemic to north-central Brazil (del Hoyo et al. 1992).


The species is found in a range of forest types, including rainforest in the Andes, dense secondary forest throughout, cerrado in Brazil and cloud forest in Venezuela (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It is known from 50-1,900 m (Hilty 2003). The species breeds from January to March in Colombia and in June in Venezuela, usually nesting in small depressions in leaf litter at the foot of large trees or among roots in shrubby vegetation (Solano-Ugalde et al. 2018, Cabot et al. 2019). It feeds on the forest floor, mainly on fruit, with some seeds, invertebrates and occasionally small vertebrates (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Restall et al. 2006).


Projected deforestation is the primary threat affecting this species, as land is cleared for cattle ranching and soy production, facilitated by expansion of the road network (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). It requires pristine forest (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and so is especially sensitive to fragmentation and disturbance, particularly as its distribution is already patchy. Hunting by locals is also known to reduce numbers (A. Lees in litt. 2011). Proposed changes to the Brazilian Forest Code reduce the percentage of land a private landowner is legally required to maintain as forest (including, critically, a reduction in the width of forest buffers alongside perennial steams) and include an amnesty for landowners who deforested before July 2008 (who would subsequently be absolved of the need to reforest illegally cleared land) (Bird et al. 2011).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway

No targeted actions are known. The species is listed as Vulnerable at the national level in Ecuador and Brazil (Freile et al. 2018, Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade 2018).

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. Reduce hunting pressure. 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). Campaign against proposed changes to the Brazilian Forest Code that would lead to a decrease in the width of the areas of riverine forest protected as Permanent Preservation Areas (APPs), which function as vital corridors in fragmented landscapes.


42-49 cm. Large, grey tinamou. Mostly grey, with sides of head freckled and undertail-coverts reddish brown. Voice An abrupt, single hoot.


Text account compilers
Symes, A., Wheatley, H., Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Hermes, C., Khwaja, N.

Lees, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Tinamus tao. Downloaded from on 09/08/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 09/08/2020.