Heart of America Game
Breeders' Association

Crested Tinamou

By Terry Smith
First appeared in the September 2001 Heartland News.

We have kept many species of birds in the 21 years that John and I have been married, but one of the most enjoyable species we have ever had is the Crested Tinamou, Eudromia elegance. Our birds were quite tame and were always at the door whenever we went into the pen to feed and water or gather eggs. One hen liked to follow John out into the walkway between the pens, but he had no difficulty getting her back into the pen. When he went back in, she followed. These social birds, make a call like no other species we have kept - a combination of flute-like trills and whistles.

Crested Tinamou, members of the family Tinamidae, have a superficial resemblance to gallinaceous birds or the partridges and the quails, but anatomically they seem to be closely related to the rheas and ornithologists regard Tinamou as one of the most primitive species of birds. Depending on how they are classified, there are thirty-three species of Tinamou, although only the Crested and the Chilean Brushland are usually found in private collections.

Tinamou are non-migratory birds that have adapted themselves to a variety of habitats ranging from mountain slopes, tropical rain forests, and the grasslands of southern Mexico, Central American and extending in South America to Patagonia. Crested Tinamou are indigenous to the pampas or grasslands of southern Uruguay and Argentina where they are hunted for sport and food.

Like other Tinamou, male and female Crested Tinamou are alike in color and form, but females are usually a bit larger in size and often are more aggressive especially during the courtship. One of our hens liked to run along side of us pecking at our ankles or pulling at our shoe laces when we entered the pen. Sometimes referred to as the Elegant or Martinita Tinamou, the species is easily identified by its long curved vertical crest, the absence of hind toes and its extremely short tail. Two white bands begin above the eyes and run along the side of the nape while a third band starts from the base of the upper mandible and crosses the cheeks below the eyes. The overall color of the Crested Tinamou is brownish-gray banded and spotted with black and pale fulvous. For the size of the body, the head appears to be somewhat small.

We obtained two pair which were housed in a single pen consisting of an outdoor run with tall grasses an indoor run. During cold weather, a door could be closed to keep the birds inside. A heavy layer of straw covered the ground of the indoor pen an the birds like to dig a deep nest so that they slept with their backs level to the top of the straw. The droppings of Tinamou are rather smelly so the litter must be changed regularly. If droppings are not cleaned up, the birds can develop balls of manure on their toes which must be removed before it hardens and damages the toes.

Tinamou are vegetarians and can be maintained on a diet of game bird rations. Our birds were fond of milo, chopped greens, cranberries, chopped apples, and raw peanuts which were treats eaten out of Johnís hand.

In the wild, a Tinamou hen will mate with several males. After laying her clutch of glossy jade-green eggs, she will leave the male to set on the eggs and rear the young while she mates with a second male and lays another clutch of eggs. We let one of our males set. Both hens continued to lay fertile eggs while the male set. He appeared to be in a deep trance during the incubation period. At the end of the nineteen day incubation period, he hatched out five chicks which were removed from the nest and artificially brooded.

We have also set and hatched Tinamou eggs in the incubator. Maintaining a somewhat drier humidity of 82 to 83į during the first two weeks of incubation seems to be the secret to hatching them. During the hatching period, we increased the humidity.

Chicks remained in the hatcher for twenty-four hours before being put in the brooder boxes. I never used infra-red bulbs because I read in an article writing by Harry Hardy that indicated that the use of the bulbs can cause blindness in some chicks. Care must be taken in handling the downy chicks which are buff colored with darker stripes and mottling. They are precocial and are capable of running about soon after hatching. I lost one chick when it got out of the brooder box because I failed to get the lid on properly. I used a small amount of finely-chopped hard-boiled egg to get the chicks to start eating. It is placed on the paper toweling which covers the brooder box floor. When they are two weeks old, I offered them garden-fresh leaf lettuce which I cut up with scissors. At about three weeks of age, I offered them a small amount of millet which they would readily pick out of the feeder. Their drinking water was medicated for the first 5 to 7 days with LS-50. This was followed by a water soluble vitamin 2 times a week. When chicks are crowed in brooders, feather picking can occur.

During the time that we raised Tinamou, I had a high mortality rate for various reasons. I lost several chicks when they were about fourteen days old. A post revealed that the crops of each of the dead birds was full of food. Two birds died of broken necks when they were startled in their brooder pens at night and jumped up hitting the top of the brooder. More birds were lost to respiratory problems after being put into outdoor pens. I learned later from reading the article written by Harry Hardy that he puts his birds on water soluble Aureomycin for four days prior to their being moved outdoors and for two weeks after they are outside to eliminate mortality from pneumonia.

We have not kept Tinamou since 1997. We lost one breeder male in the spring of 1995. We found him in the outdoor run of his pen with a broken neck. During the winter of 1995-1996, we lost the second male so their were no fertile eggs that breeding season. We bought a new male, which seemed to be getting along well with the hens, but he too died as did the older of the hens.

© September 2001 The Heartland News