It probably means your TIFF image has an alpha channel and therefore the underlying Leptonica library used by Tesseract doesn’t support it. If you’re using Imagemagick then be aware that operations such as
-draw can cause alpha channels to be added. If you’re using
convert in your workflow and want to remove the channel again immediately, flatten the image before writing by adding
-background white -flatten +matte before the output filename, e.g.:
convert input.tiff -fill white -draw 'rectangle 10,10 20,20' -background white -flatten +matte output.tiff
Tesseract (well, Leptonica) accepts PNGs these days and is less picky about them, so it might be easier to migrate your workflow to PNG anyway.
Sources: magick-users mailing list posting; tesseract-ocr mailing list posting