namou (order Tinamiformes), 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.
Tinamous, considered by hunters to be among the finest game birds in terms of sport as well as palatability, are heavily hunted in many parts of South America. Although market hunting has been curtailed by law, it is still practiced in some countries. Frozen tinamous from Argentina were once sold in the United States under the name South American quail. By the late 1990s only two species of tinamou were listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, but habitat destruction and heavy hunting have reduced a large number of populations.