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any of about 47 species of ground-dwelling birds found in Central and South America. Tinamous superficially resemble partridges and quail but have limited flight capability, preferring to walk or run rather than fly. Most inhabit forests, but some live in more open terrain. Drably coloured, tinamous blend into their surroundings, where they generally live alone or in small groups. The tinamou order has long interested scientists because many of the tinamous' features link them to the large flightless birds, or ratites (see ostrich, emu, cassowary, and rhea). The name is derived from a term used for the bird by a native tribe of the French Guiana-Suriname border region