Red-winged tinamou (Rhynchotus rufescens)

Red-winged tinamou walking and looking alert
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Red-winged tinamou fact file

Red-winged tinamou description

GenusRhynchotus (1)

With the typical compact, rounded tinamou body shape, the red-winged tinamou is distinguished by its relatively large size and reddish-brown edges to the wing (2) (3), which are clearly visible in flight and which lend this bird its common name (4). The upperparts and wings are greyish-brown, marked with black and buff spots and bars, while the underparts, neck and head are light greyish-brown to buffy or whitish, with a creamy white throat. The small head bears a dark patch behind the eye, and a black crown, edged in buff, with a crest that can be erected. Like other tinamous, the tail is only rudimentary, and the yellowish legs are quite stout. The red-winged tinamou has a particularly long and slightly down-curving beak. Males and females are similar in appearance, and juvenile red-winged tinamous resemble the adults (2) (3) (4) (5).

Three subspecies of red-winged tinamou are recognised, based on differences in colouration and barring (2) (3) (4) (5). A distinctive highland race, previously considered a fourth subspecies, is now classed as a separate species, Rhynchotus maculicollis (6) (7).

Length: 39 - 42.5 cm (2) (3)
Male weight: 700 - 920 g (2)
Female weight: 815 - 1040 g (2)

Red-winged tinamou biology

Like other tinamous, the red-winged tinamou spends most of its time on the ground, preferring to freeze or run rather than fly when threatened. The rounded wings are relatively small, and flight can only be kept up for a short distance (2) (4) (8). Reported to be most active in the heat of the day, the red-winged tinamou feeds on a wide variety of both plant and animal matter, including fruits, seeds, shoots, roots, tubers, insects, worms and even small vertebrates. The diet varies seasonally, comprising mainly animal matter in the summer and vegetable matter in the winter when insects are scarce. The long beak is used to scratch at the ground and sweep away soil to uncover food, and the red-winged tinamou may even jump almost a metre in the air to pick insects from vegetation (2) (4).

The breeding season is thought to vary with location, occurring from August to January in Brazil. The nest is a slight depression in the ground, excavated with the feet and lined with grass (2) (4). Unusually for a bird, it is the male tinamou that incubates the eggs and cares for the chicks. After laying up to five wine red, reddish purple or sometimes white eggs in the nest, the female red-winged tinamou leaves, and is likely to mate with further males and lay further clutches in different nests (2) (4) (8). More than one female may lay eggs in a single nest, and the male red-winged tinamou incubates the eggs for around 19 to 21 days (2) (4). If leaving the nest for any period, the male may cover the eggs with feathers (4). Young red-winged tinamous have red and white down, with black streaking, but reach adult-like plumage within about three weeks (2).


Red-winged tinamou range

The red-winged tinamou occurs in southern South America, east of the Andes, in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina (2) (3) (5) (7). Rhynchotus rufescens rufescens is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay, while R. r. catingae is restricted to central and northeastern Brazil, and R. r. pallescens to northern and central Argentina (2) (3) (4) (5).


Red-winged tinamou habitat

Mainly inhabiting damp grassland and savanna woodland, the red-winged tinamou can be found at elevations of up to 2,500 metres or more (2) (3) (7).


Red-winged tinamou status

The red-winged tinamou is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Red-winged tinamou threats

The red-winged tinamou has a large range and is still relatively common in most areas (2) (7). However, there is some evidence of population declines. The species is popular for its meat and is regularly hunted, often illegally, especially close to human settlements. Habitat loss due to agricultural development, possible poisoning by insecticides, and the burning of grassland to regenerate pastures are also threats in some areas. However, the destruction of tropical forests to make way for pastures has helped the red-winged tinamou to colonise new areas, and in some places it is even regarded as an agricultural pest (2) (4).


Red-winged tinamou conservation

Previously listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning international trade in the species was subject to careful monitoring, the red-winged tinamou was removed from this listing in 1995 (9), and there are now no known conservation measures in place for the species. However, the red-winged tinamou adapts well to captivity and is commonly kept in South American zoos (2) (4). The species is also of interest for commercial production for its meat (10) (11), though there is little information available on the potential impacts on wild populations, and attempts in the past to introduce this and other tinamous to Europe and the United States for hunting have been largely unsuccessful (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the red-winged tinamou see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Animal with a backbone.


  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Blake, E.R. (1977) Manual of Neotropical Birds. Volume 1: Spheniscidae (Penguins) to Laridae (Gulls and Allies). University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.
  4. Davies, S.J.J.F. (2002) Ratites and Tinamous. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and How to Identify Them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
  6. Maijer, S. (1996) Distinctive song of highland form maculicollis of the red-winged tinamou (Rhynchotus rufescens): evidence for species rank. Auk, 113(3): 695 - 697.
  7. BirdLife International (June, 2009)
  8. Roots, C. (2006) Flightless Birds. Greenwood Publishing Group, Connecticut.
  9. CITES (June, 2009)
  10. Cromberg, V.U., Stein, M.S., Boleli, I.C., Tonhati, H. and Queiroz, S.A. (2007) Reproductive and behavioral aspects of red-winged tinamous (Rhynchotus rufescens) in groups with different sex ratios. Revista Brasileira de Ciência Avícola, 9(3): 161 - 166.
  11. Fowler, M.E. and Cubas, Z.S. (2001) Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of South American Wild Animals. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.

Image credit

Red-winged tinamou walking and looking alert  
Red-winged tinamou walking and looking alert

© Pete Oxford /

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