Tag Archives: mousebirds

Bird of the week – Week 61 : Speckled mousebird

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.

Speckled-mousebird

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.

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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.

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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.

Speckled-mousebird

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!

Speckled-mousebird

Bird of the week – Week 26 : White-backed mousebird

The mousebirds are quite appropriately named, as they are distinctly mouse-like as they move about through the branches of the trees that they inhabit, feeding on a variety of fruit, flowers, and leaves. They are often seen perched on a branch facing the sun, legs spayed and belly exposed to the warm rays. The White-backed mousebirds are about 34 cm in length, of which roughly half is the pointed tail. The upperparts, head, prominent crest and breast are grey; the lower back white, bordered with black; the rump maroon; the belly buff. The bill is bluish white with a black tip, and the legs and feet are red. Sexes are alike in plumage and the males are slightly bigger than the females.
The White-backed mousebird is endemic to the Southern African region, where it prefers dry habitats, such as thornveld, scrub and semi-desert, and is a common throughout the drier areas of Southern Africa. It also makes itself at home in farmyards, gardens and, being a lover of fruit, in orchards. They are conspicuously gregarious, found in groups that interact with mutual preening and communicate with sharp krik-krik vocalisations and a variety of other sounds, including a pleasant whistled zwee-wewit. They roost in tightly-knit groups at night.
The White-backed mousebirds are monogamous and the paired birds both participate in building an untidy nest in the shape of a bowl, with a diameter of about 6 cm, from dry plant material that is usually lined with fine plant material. The nest is usually located in a bush or tree, well above the ground. The clutch is most often 2 to 4 eggs, and these hatch after an incubation period of about 13 days.
The scientific name of the White-backed mousebird is Colius colius. The derivation of colius seems to be the subject of some conjecture, but may be from the Greek koleos meaning a scabbard or sheath, presumably referring to the long tail. Seems a bit odd, though, doesn’t it?