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    An grownup rufous tinamou, depicted in an attractive illustration
    from 1838 (public area)

    On the flip of
    the [19th] century, many tinamous, primarily Pampas hens, have been
    launched and raised as sport birds in France, England, Germany, and Hungary.
    After this preliminary success, nonetheless, all makes an attempt to settle tinamous in Europe
    within the wild have failed.

    Alexander F.
    Skutch – ‘Tinamous’, in
    Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, Quantity 7, Birds I

    To aviculturalists, tinamous are well-known
    for being these nondescript, deceptively gallinaceous birds of the Neotropical
    Area which might be in actuality most intently associated to sure of the enormous,
    flightless ratites. Reasonably much less well-known, conversely, is that at one time
    they appeared destined to grow to be unique new members of the English avifauna, as
    revealed right here.

    Tinamous are among the many most perplexing and
    paradoxical of birds. Comprising some 40-odd species in complete, and ranging in
    measurement from 8 in to 21 in, they intently parallel the galliform gamebirds in
    outward morphology, with small head and considerably lengthy, slender neck, plump physique
    and quick tail, sturdy legs, and rounded wings. Admittedly, their beak is
    typically reasonably extra slender, elongate, and curved at its tip, and the tail is
    typically hidden by an uncommonly pronounced improvement of the rump feathers, however
    in total look they might simply be mistaken for a mottle-plumaged
    guineafowl, grouse, or quail (relying upon the tinamou species in query).

    Even so, it will appear that their
    misleadingly gallinaceous morphology is a consequence of convergent evolution
    (i.e. tinamous filling the ecological niches in South and Central America
    occupied elsewhere by real galliform species, however having arisen from a
    wholly separate ancestral avian inventory). For detailed analyses not solely of their
    skeletal construction but in addition of their egg-white proteins and (particularly) their
    DNA have all indicated that their nearest family are literally the
    ostrich-like rheas!


    Rheas (public area)

    Nonetheless, the tinamous are these days
    classed inside a whole taxonomic order of their very own, Tinamiformes, as a result of in
    spite of their ratite affinities they’ve a well-developed keel on their breast-bone
    for the attachment of flight muscle tissues, and are certainly in a position to fly – though
    they aren’t significantly adept aerially. That is most likely on account of their notably
    small coronary heart and lungs, which might appear to be insufficiently sturdy to energy as
    energy-expensive an exercise as flight. Equally paradoxical is the truth that
    though their legs are well-constructed for operating, tinamous will not be
    noticeably profitable at this mode of locomotion both, preferring to keep away from
    hazard by freezing immobile with head prolonged, their cryptic colouration
    affording good camouflage amidst their grassland and forest environment.

    Their outward look will not be the one
    parallel between tinamous and galliform species. On account of the relative
    ease with which these intriguing birds could be bagged, of their native
    Neotropical homelands tinamous have all the time been very talked-about as gamebirds – a
    reputation enhanced by the tender and really tasty (if visually odd) nature of
    their nearly clear flesh. Accordingly, it may solely be a matter of time
    earlier than somebody contemplated the thought of introducing a number of species of
    tinamou into Nice Britain as novel additions to its listing of gamebirds – an inventory
    already containing the names of a number of notable outsiders, together with the red-legged
    partridge Alectoris rufa and the frequent ring-necked pheasant Phasianus

    The idea of building naturalised
    populations of tinamou in Nice Britain was additional favoured by the good ease
    with which these birds could be raised in captivity, enabling shares for launch
    into the wild to be constructed up very quickly. So in 1884 the scene was set for the
    graduation of this intriguing experiment in avian introduction – the
    brainchild of John Bateman, from Brightlingsea, Essex.


    The species that Bateman had chosen for
    this function was Rhynchotus rufescens, the rufous tinamou or Pampas hen –
    a 16-in-long, grassland-inhabiting type extensively distributed in South America,
    with a variety extending from Brazil and Bolivia to Paraguay, Uruguay, and
    Argentina. In April 1883, he had obtained six specimens from a pal, D.
    Shennan, of Negrete, Brazil, who had introduced them to England from the River
    Plate three months earlier. Bateman maintained them in a low, wire-covered
    aviary with hay strewn over its ground, sited on certainly one of his homesteads; and by
    June, they’d laid 30 eggs, most of which efficiently hatched – and half of those
    survived to maturity.

    In January 1884, naturalist W.B. Tegetmeier
    paid Bateman a go to, and have become very all in favour of his plans to launch
    tinamous in England; on 23 February 1884, The Subject printed a report
    by Tegetmeier relating to this. Nonetheless, the primary launch had already occurred
    (albeit accidentally), as a result of through the summer season of 1883 a retriever canine had
    damaged by way of the wire-roof of Bateman’s tinamou aviary, ensuing within the
    dying of 4 tinamous, and the escape of seven or eight others onto Bateman’s
    property and thence to the Brightlingsea marshes. Solely a small variety of tinamous
    had remained in captivity however these had elevated to 13 by the point of Tegetmeier’s
    go to. As for the escapees, Bateman recognised that they have been in grave hazard
    of being bagged by individuals capturing within the space (thereby ending any likelihood that
    they might reach establishing a viable inhabitants). So in a bid to thwart
    this, he issued a handbill, drawing to the eye of native folks the fundamental
    look and habits of tinamous, and his plans for his or her naturalisation in
    England. The handbill learn:

    The tinamou,
    or, as it’s referred to as by the English settlers on the River Plate, “Large
    Partridge,” is a sport hen, sticking nearly totally to the grass land;
    measurement, about that of a hen pheasant; color when roasted, snowy white
    all through. When flushed, he rises straight into the air with a soar…after which
    flies off steadily for about half a mile; he won’t rise greater than twice. Mr
    Bateman proposes, after crossing his inventory with the tinamous within the Zoological
    Gardens, to show them out on the Brightlingsea marshes, that are strikingly like
    the district whence they got here, and he hopes that the gents and sportsmen of
    Essex will give the experiment an opportunity of succeeding, by sparing this hen for
    the subsequent few seasons, in the event that they stray, as they’re certain to do, into the
    neighbouring parishes, as they might provide an excellent sporting need within the
    marshland districts.

    To complement his captive inventory, following
    Tegetmeier’s go to Bateman obtained three extra specimens of rufous tinamou from
    his pal Shennan, and likewise bought three from London Zoo. In April 1885, he
    launched 11 people onto the Brightlingsea marshes; these, along with l4
    hatched from eggs, had elevated to roughly 50 or 60 birds by September,
    in keeping with a second, extra in depth report by Tegetmeier (The Subject,
    l2 September 1885).


    A portrait of
    English naturalist W.B. Tegetmeier by Ernest Gustave Girardot (public area)

    Tegetmeier famous that all through spring and
    early summer season in Brightlingsea and components of Thorington, the rufous tinamou’s presence
    there could possibly be readily confirmed by its very distinctive name, described as a
    musical ‘ti-a-ú-ú-ú’ within the case of the cock hen, and sounding unexpectedly
    just like that of the blackbird Turdus merula. Illustrating this similarity
    is an entertaining anecdote contained in a letter to Tegetmeier from Bateman:

    Mr Bateman, in
    his letter to me, states: “A passing gipsy bird-fancier hailed my keeper’s
    spouse, after listening attentively awhile, with ‘That is an unusual high-quality
    blackbird you’ve got bought there, missus,’ alluding to the notice.

      ‘Sure,’ she replied.

      ‘Will you are taking 5 bob for him, missus?’

      ‘No; I will not.’

      ‘Might I take a look?’

      ‘Sure; ye could.’

      ‘Nicely I am blowed!’”

      As he effectively is perhaps, seeing what he thought to be
    the notice of a blackbird continuing from a hen as massive as a hen pheasant.

    Summing up his report of 12 September 1885,
    Tegetmeier provided the next phrases of optimism:

    I can’t conclude
    with out congratulating Mr Bateman on the success of the experiment so far as it
    has but proceeded. A lot hurt has been achieved by indiscriminate and inconsiderate
    acclimatisation, that it’s passable to listen to that one helpful hen has a
    likelihood of being launched underneath circumstances through which different sport birds will not be
    prone to do effectively.

    In fact, even when the risk to the
    tinamous’ institution from shooters could possibly be prevented, there remained the
    downside of persecution from four-legged predators – most particularly the fox, a
    main hunter of tinamous of their native New World homelands. But in his second
    report, Tegetmeier had dismissed the chance that foxes could be a hazard
    to them in England:

    . . . there’s
    little question that an English fox wouldn’t object to a hen that’s as delicate
    consuming as a landrail [corncrake Crex crex]. The younger brood in
    Brightlingsea are, nonetheless, spared that hazard, because the M.F.H. of the Essex and
    Suffolk hounds has, with that courtesy which all the time distinguishes the true
    sportsman, granted a dispensation for the season from litters of cubs within the


    However Tegetmeier’s optimism, Brightlingsea’s Neotropical
    newcomers proved to be no match for its indigenous vulpine vanquishers (© Dr
    Karl Shuker)

    Tragically, nonetheless, Tegetmeier’s
    expectation was not fulfilled; regardless of all precautions, the foxes triumphed
    very shortly afterwards, and the tinamous have been exterminated. In lower than a
    decade, Bateman’s hopes for a resident species of tinamou in Britain had been
    promisingly born, had briefly flourished, and had been completely destroyed. (Furthermore,
    as famous on this chapter’s opening quote, related makes an attempt at across the identical
    time to introduce tinamous elsewhere in Europe additionally finally led to failure,
    little question assembly a lot the identical vulpine-vanquishing destiny.) By 1896, the complete
    episode had been relegated to not more than the briefest of mentions within the
    main ornithological work of that point. Quoting from A Dictionary of Birds
    (1894-6) by Prof. Alfred Newton and Hans Gadow:

    What would
    have been a profitable try by Mr. John Bateman to naturalise this species, Rhynchotus
    , in England, at Brightlingsea in Essex . . . sadly failed
    owing to the destruction of the birds by foxes.

    A singular chapter in British aviculture was
    closed – or was it? In his Launched Birds of the World (1981), John L.
    Lengthy states:

    It appears
    probably that quite a few tinamous, aside from the Rufous Tinamou, could have been
    launched into Nice Britain, however these makes an attempt seem like poorly


    The good tinamou Tinamus
    , painted by Joseph Smit in 1895 (public area)

    An occasion which will have ensued from one such
    try featured a tinamou removed from the Brightlingsea space, however sadly the
    exact identification of that hen may be very a lot a matter for conjecture. On 20
    January 1900, The Subject printed the next letter from J.C.
    Hawkshaw of Hollycombe, Liphook, Hants:

    On Dec. 23
    final, whereas capturing a covert on this property, an odd hen bought up amongst the
    pheasants and was shot. On examination it proved to be an excellent tinamu [sic],
    or, as it’s generally referred to as, martineta. As Christmas was close to, I skinned it
    myself, with a view of preserving it till I may ship it to be arrange, and
    discovered it to be in wonderful situation, with its crop filled with Indian corn, which
    it had evidently picked up within the covert, the place the pheasants have been repeatedly
    fed. The keeper on whose beat it was killed mentioned that he had consistently seen it
    feeding with the pheasants. If you happen to could be form sufficient to insert the above in
    your columns I hope that I could possibly uncover whence this stranger had

    As a footnote to that letter, the editors
    of The Subject briefly referred to Bateman’s experiment at Brightlingsea,
    however confessed that they have been unaware of any related trials in Surrey, Sussex,
    or Hants (Liphook was sited on the border of these three counties) which may
    clarify the origin of the specimen reported by Hawkshaw.

    Not solely was this tinamou’s origin a
    thriller, so too was its identification. No description of its look was given;
    the one clues to its species are the 2 frequent names, ‘nice tinamu’ and
    ‘martineta’, utilized to it by Hawkshaw. Satirically, nonetheless, these truly
    serve solely to confuse the matter additional, reasonably than to make clear it. The
    downside is that they’ve been variously utilized to a minimum of three fully
    totally different species. Each names have been utilized to the rufous tinamou (as in Richard
    Lydekker’s The Royal Pure Historical past, 1894-96); however ‘nice tinamou’ is
    additionally generally utilized in relation to a barely bigger species, Tinamus main
    (native to northwestern and central South America, in addition to Central America);
    and ‘martineta’ doubles as a substitute identify for the elegant tinamou Eudromia
    (inhabiting Chile and southern Argentina).


    Was Hawkshaw’s hen proof, due to this fact, of
    one other try and introduce the rufous tinamou into Britain; or was it
    proof of a comparable experiment with a distinct species? Maybe its
    existence within the wild was wholly unintended, completely unplanned – merely a lone
    escapee from identical aviary. Definitely, tinamous had been maintained in captivity
    in Britain, with no try made to launch them for naturalisation functions,
    by quite a few totally different aviculturalists for a few years earlier than this occasion.

    At present, even with such established exotica
    as flocks of ring-necked parakeets Psittacula krameri and golden
    pheasants Chrysolophus pictus surviving in extensively dispersed areas of the
    U.Ok., it nonetheless appears unusual to think about that had it not been for an
    all-too-formidable onslaught by the foxes of Brightlingsea simply over a century in the past,
    Nice Britain could effectively have grow to be residence to a whole further taxonomic order of
    birds – that short-legged family of rheas and ostriches would have grow to be a
    frequent sight by now within the fields and marshlands of England, far eliminated certainly
    from their unique Neotropical world.

    This weblog submit was excerpted solely
    for ShukerNature from my guide Extraordinary Animals Revisited.