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Individual study: Captive breeding of Tinamus major fuscipennis at Centro de Reproducción de Animales en Vês de Extinción ZooAve, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Published source details

Fournier L., Fournier R. & Janik D. (2007) Técnicas para la reproducción en cautiverio de Tinamus major fuscipennis (Tinamiformes, Tinamidae), ZooAve, Costa Rica (Techniques for the captive breeding of Tinamus major fuscipennis ZooAve, (Tinamiformes, Tinamidae), Costa Rica). Zeledonia, 11, 20-25


Great tinamou Tinamus major is an endangered Neotropical ground-dwelling bird. Habitat loss and fragmentation, along with hunting, are the greatest threats to its survival. In Costa Rica it is restricted to areas of primary and secondary forest from sea-level to 1,500 m. Its reproductive behaviour is unusual in that, amongst other things, the male incubates the eggs and subsequently cares for the chicks. To assist in conservation of the species, captive breeding techniques for T.m.fuscipennis (the subspecies native to the region) were developed.

Study area: The captive breeding program was carried out at the Centro de Reproducción de Animales en Vês de Extinción (CRAVE), Fundación Restauración de la Naturaleza ZooAve, in Dulce Nombre de La Garita, La Garita district, Alajuela municipality, Costa Rica between 2003 and 2005.

Captive breeding enclosures: Four purpose-built wire mesh outdoor enclosures were constructed: Enclosure 1: 11 m x 12 m x 3.5 m high; Enclosure 2: 15 m x 17 m x 5 m high; Enclosure 3: 7 m x 12 m x 4m high; and Enclosure 4: 6 m x 15 m x 5 m high. The floor of the enclosures consisted of soil and fallen leaves, with vegetation cover of trees, shrubs and herbaceous vegetation. Enclosures 1, 2 and 3 were constructed within the ZooAve exhibition area, while enclosure 4 was within a restricted area.

Captive breeding populations: In 2003, three females and three males were introduced into enclosure 1, and three females and two males into enclosure 2 (all birds were in their first breeding year). A third breeding stock, four males and one female, comprising chicks reared in 2003, was established in enclosure 3 in 2004. Ten females and two males (derived from chicks reared in 2004), were introduced into enclosure 4 in 2005; three more females and one male were introduced to enclosure 1; two females and three males to enclosure 2 and three females and two males to enclosure 3.

The tinamous in enclosures 1-3 shared the enclosures with several other bird species; enclosure 4 held only tinamous. The tinamous were fed with a mixture of grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, hard-boiled egg, chicken food and dog food, enriched with vitamins and minerals.

Egg laying and incubation: Eggs were placed in incubators (with a 4-hour automatic 'turning-over' mechanism) immediately after laying (37.8ºC, relative humidity 96%). Eggs were checked for embryo survival every two days. Weight, length and diameter were recorded for each egg. Chicks were weighed immediately at hatching and after 16-17 days, and transferred to 'newly-hatched' enclosures where they reminded at 35ºC for 24 hours before being released into a rearing compound.

Captive breeding: Breeding in captivity occurred between January and October, i.e. commencing one month later and extending two months more compared to the known breeding period of wild birds. The extended breeding period in captivity could be due to the eggs being removed for incubation.

Egg production: The number of eggs laid by the captive females (672 eggs laid by 24 females during the 3-year period) was comparable to that lain by wild birds (3-6 eggs are laid, 3-4 times each breeding season). Average egg weight (77.8 g), average length (61.8 mm) and average diameter (48.5 mm) dimensions were also comparable to those of wild birds. The eggs had particular individual-female specific features (dimensions and colour) that allowed them to be recognized from those of other females.

The number of eggs laid was correlated with the age of the female, older, more experienced birds producing more eggs During 2003 the number of collected eggs was low (35 eggs) due to there being just six females and all in their first-breeding year. During 2004 and 2005 the number of collected eggs (223 eggs in 2004 and 414 eggs in 2005) increased because of the age and also as number of females increased.

Egg predation: Egg predation occurred in enclosures 2 and 3; it was highest in enclosure 3 as a result of predation by chestnut-mandibled toucan Ramphastos swainsonii and great crassow Crax rubra. More eggs were collected in enclosures 1, (where T. major shared the enclosure only with song birds), and 4 where no other birds were present.

Egg fertility: More than half of the collected eggs were infertile during the first year (61% from enclosure 1; 50% enclosure 2). Fertility increased considerably during the second year (infertile eggs: 16%, 16% and 13% from enclosures 1, 2 and 3, respectively); it seems that the age of the breeding stock in enclosures 1 and 2 (older, more experienced) affected the fertility during this year. However, in enclosure 3 there was high egg fertility despite the breeding stock being young (male to female sex ratio was 4:1). In 2005 high levels of infertility were observed in enclosure 4 (59% infertile). The breeding stock was in its first breeding season and the male to female sex ratio was 1:5. For the rest of the enclosures the egg-fertility levels were similar to 2004.

The average weight of the newly hatched chicks was 55.2 g.

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please quote the original paper. This Spanish language paper, translated and summarized for Conservation Evidence, has an English abstract only.