Action: Use captive breeding to increase or maintain populations of tinamous
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
A replicated study from Costa Rica over three years found that great tinamous Tinamus major successfully bred in captivity, with similar reproductive success to wild birds.
Captive breeding or ex situ conservation involves establishing and maintaining populations of wild species in captivity whilst attempting to keep the fundamental nature of the species the same (i.e. avoiding domestication). It is frequently used as a technique when wild populations become very small indeed, very fragmented or are declining very rapidly. Captive breeding potentially offers a way to maintain a population of the species whilst the threats to it in the wild are reduced or removed; or of increasing reproductive output and outbreeding beyond what would be possible in the wild.
Large-scale captive breeding programmes typically use specially-designed breeding centres, but zoos and wildlife parks can also be used. Whilst the differences between these may impact on the success of captive breeding, we have included both in the following section, as the techniques used should be applicable to both.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A study in a breeding centre in Costa Rica between 2003 and 2005 (Fournier et al. 2007) found that 42 great tinamous, Tinamus major, (28 female, 14 male) successfully bred in four breeding enclosures and laid a comparable number of eggs to wild birds (672 eggs laid by 24 females over three years in the centre vs. 3-6 eggs laid 3-4 times each breeding season in the wild), although the breeding season was a month longer than in the wild. Captive-laid eggs were similar in size to wild eggs. Older females laid more eggs and fertility in two enclosures appeared to increase with the number of years that birds spent together (50-61% infertility in the first year together vs. 16% in the second year). An enclosure with a male: female ratio of 4:1 had higher fertility in its first year than an enclosure with a ratio of 1:5 (13% infertility vs. 59%, number of eggs not provided). There was egg predation in two enclosures, which tinamous shared with chestnut-mandibled toucans, Ramphastos swainsonii, and great curassows, Crax rubra, but not in enclosures shared with only songbirds or no other species. The eggs were removed from cages and artificially incubated, but the effectiveness of this was not reported.