Mousebirds are quite common in most parts of southern Africa, and the most common type in the eastern part of the region is the Speckled mousebird. Its range is limited to the wetter eastern areas and it is absent from Namibia and most of Botswana in the west. The adults have a length of approximately 34 cm, half of which is the long tail.
The sexes are alike in plumage and in size, having an overall dull brown appearance, with a black face, grey head with a prominent crest. The bill is black and white, the eyes black and the legs and feet are purplish-brown.
The Speckled mousebird is highly vocal, with the most frequent call being a sharpish chee, chee, chik, chik. They are very social birds, often feeding and dust bathing together. Usually found in groups of between five and twenty birds, they occupy the edges of forests, and riverine thickets, as well as gardens and orchards. In early morning and late afternoon they are often to be found sunning themselves, sitting with their legs well apart and bellies exposed to the sun.
Speckled mousebirds forage in the upper canopy, where they eat a wide variety of fruit, leaves and flowers.
Their nest is an untidy shallow bowl of plant material, lined with soft material and leaves. The female lays two to four cream-coloured eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximtely 15 days.
The scientific binomial for the Speckled mousebird is Colius striatus; Colius from the Greek for a scabbard (apparently a reference to the long tail), and striatus from the Latin meaning striped. Thus we have a striped bird with a tail like a scabbard. Well, it has a long tail, but why it should be reminiscent of a scabbard I have no idea. And it certainly isn’t striped in any obvious way!