Tinamous are stocky, terrestrial birds with very short tails and rounded wings. Berlespch’s Tinamou is a medium sized tinamou with uniformly sooty blackish plumage, darkest on head and neck. This tinamou also has a yellow orange iris and red or dark reddish brown tarsi. The sexes are similar.
Within its geographic range, Berlepsch's Tinamou is distinguished by its uniformly sooty black plumage. Little Tinamou (Crypturellus soui) is smaller, is primarily brown (not blackish), and has yellowish or olive, not red, tarsi. Black Tinamou (Tinamus osgoodi) does not overlap geographically with Berlepsch's, Black occurs at higher elevations, and is much larger, with dull colored tarsi. The most similar tinamou species is Cinereous Tinamou (Crypturellus cinereus), which is Amazonian and so does not overlap with Berlepsch's. Berlepsch’s Tinamou further differs from Cinereous in being blacker overall, in having relatively longer toes and a longer and heavier bill, in having red tarsi, and different vocalizations.
The following description is based on Blake (1977):
Adult: Head, throat and neck dull black. Rest of plumage brownish black or deep sooty brown, appearing black at a distance. Sexes similar.
Immature: Undescribed? "Presumably barred with cinnamon below and on wings, as in [immature of] C. cinereus [Cinereous Tinamou]" (Blake 1977).
Iris: yellow orange, light reddish brown
Bill: maxilla blackish, mandible dull orange red
Tarsi and toes: dark reddish brown
Bare parts color data from Blake (1977) and Ridgely and Greenfield (2001b).
Total length: 28 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b), 29.6-32.0 cm (Blake 1977)
Linear measurements (from Blake 1977):
male (n = 9)
wing length (flat): mean 176 mm (range 168-182 mm)
bill length (exposed culmen): mean 25.6 mm (range 23-31 mm)
female (n = 5)
wing length (flat): mean 177.5 mm (range 165-186 mm)
bill length (exposed culmen): mean 27.8 mm (range 24-30 mm)
Mass: male, range 430-527 g (Cabot 1992); female, range 512-615 g (Cabot 1992)