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Version 1.0

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Little Tinamou Crypturellus soui

Tshering Dema L, Marîa Félix Ramos-Ordoñez, R. Bribiesca-Formisano, Claudia I. Rodríguez-Flores, Carlos A. Soberanes-González, and Marîa del Coro Arizmendi
Version: 1.0 — Published July 29, 2011


Distinguishing Characteristics

Tinamous are pudgy, terrestrial birds with short tails and wings; they superficially resemble tailless quail. Little Tinamou is a small tinamou (20-24 cm, 250 g) with drab plumage. The plumage is mainly dark brown, with paler underparts. The crown is blackish, and the sides of the head are dark gray. There is slight sexual dimorphism in plumage, the female typically having brighter plumage than the male.

Similar Species

Little Tinamous overlap geographically with several other species of small Crypturellus tinamous, but Little Tinamou usually can be distinguished by its small size and very plain plumage. Other species of Crypturellus in Central America (Slaty-breasted Tinamou C. boucardi, Thicket Tinamou C. cinnamomeus) are larger and have red tarsi. In South America, most geographically overlapping species of Crypturellus have plumage that is more or less obviously barred and are larger; some of these species also have red tarsi. The most similar species is Brown Tinamou (Crypturellus obsoletus). Along the western edge of the Amazon Basin and in the Atlantic forest, Brown Tinamou primarily occurs at higher elevations than Little Tinamou, although the two species may overlap in central South America. Brown also is a little larger than Little, with a gray (not white) throat, and more barring on the flanks.

Compare Little Tinamou also to wood-quail (Odontophorus) and to quail-doves (Geotrygon).

Detailed Description

The following general description of Little Tinamou is based on Blake (1977). Populations vary geographically; see also Geographic Variation.

Adult, male: Crown, nape, and sides of head dull black or blackish. Throat white, sometimes rufescent posteriorly. Upperparts generally dark grayish brown, olivaceous brown or rufous brown. Underparts paler, primarily ochraceous, cinnamon or rufous; the lower neck and breast usually more or less tinged with gray. Flanks with little or no dark barring; if present, barring is obscure.

Adult, female: Similar to male, but usually brighter and more rufescent.

Immature: Upperparts, and often the underparts as well, spotted with small whitish and black spots. Undertail coverts barred.


Bare Parts

Iris: gray, light brown, or orange

Bill: maxilla blackish; mandible gray or yellow with a darker tip

Tarsi and toes: greenish yellow or olive

Data from Blake (1977)


Total length: 20-24 cm (Howell and Webb 1995), 22-24 cm (Hilty 2003), 23 cm (Stiles and Skutch 1989)

Linear measurements (mm) of Crypturellus soui soui (Blake 1977)
    wing (flat) tarsus culmen (exposed)
   male mean (n)      127 (10)  40 (1)   17.7 (10)
  range 117-137   17-19
  female mean (n)      136.4 (10)  39 (1)  19.5 (10)
   range  124-149   17-21

Measurements of other subspecies of Little Tinamou are in Wetmore (1965) and Blake (1977)

Mass: 220 g (Hilty 2003), 250 g (Stiles and Skutch 1989); male, mean 197.7 g ± 26.9 g (n = 6, range 164-244 g, Belize; Russell 1964); female, mean 235.4 g ± 17.1 g (n = 7, range 213-268 g, Belize; Russell 1964); female 174-238 g (n = 2, Suriname; Haverschmidt and Mees 1994)

Recommended Citation

Dema L, T., M. F. Ramos-Ordoñez, R. Bribiesca-Formisano, C. I. Rodríguez-Flores, C. A. Soberanes-González, and M. d. C. Arizmendi (2011). Little Tinamou (Crypturellus soui), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.littin1.01