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The breeding behaviour of ratites and tinamous is reviewed. This group includes many of the homeothermic animals which habitually show prominent or exclusive paternal care of eggs and offspring. This unusual parental care pattern is associated with a diverse array of mating systems, ranging from monogamy to mixed polygyny/polyandry. This latter system, typical of the rhcas, is unknown among higher vertebrates outside the taxa considered herein. This diversity of mating systems, together with their great geographical and ecological range, makes ratites and tinamous a group of great potential importance in the investigation of the adaptive significance of social organization, mating systems and parental care patterns. Inadequately described features of their reproductive biology have become incorporated into various considerations of the evolution of reproductive behaviour patterns, and are in danger of assuming the status of fact through repetition. We show that these birds are very little known, in the main, and urge that caution be exercised in the use of what information is available. Directions for new research in ratite breeding biology are suggested, and an interpretation of parental care and pair-bond patterns in these birds is offered.