Speckled Mousebird (Colius striatus)

It is an environmental indicator species, a stubby, brownish-gray bird with a long, shabby tail. It is distinguished from its other mousebird cousin through its grayish-brown crest and blackish face and can be found creeping on bushes on its short legs. When flying, it flutters its wings vigorously as its tails seemingly drag him down, looking like it won’t even reach the next shrub.

Read further to know more about the Speckled Mousebird.

What is a Speckled Mousebird?

Speckled Mousebirds (Colius striatus), also regarded as bar-breasted mousebirds, are the most typical and largest mousebird species in Africa. They got their name from their mouse-like appearance and mousy habits of scampering around bushes as they forage for food. These birds are pretty gregarious, often observed in noisy flocks, foraging, bathing, or preening themselves.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Coliiformes

Family: Coliidae

Genus: Colius

Species: C. striatus

Speckled Mousebird Physical Description

Speckled mousebirds are well-named for their pale-mousy brown plumage on the back, head, and crest. Their bill has a black upper mandible and a pinkish lower part. Both of their legs and feet are of a dark pinkish-red tone. Adding to their mousy appearance is their long, thin tails, which is nearly half of their length of 13 inches or 35 centimeters. These birds are pretty light, weighing only around 57 grams.

Where can they be spotted?

Speckled Mousebirds thrive in almost any habitat except for very hot areas or rainforests. They occur in scrublands, savannas, open woodlands, bush velds, and riverine woodlands. However, these birds have also found their way into urban communities, staying on orchards, parks and gardens. Speckled Mousebirds are widely spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, south of line from Nigeria to Ethiopia.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Speckled Mousebird

Speckled Mousebirds are omnivores that feed primarily on fruit. They forage from the middle to upper canopy, consuming berries, buds, leaves, blossoms, seeds, and nectar of some plants. Occasionally, they add ants and termites for protein, and pebble and soil to assist in grinding up the vegetation they consume and for easier digestion.

These birds are often seen in groups of around 20 individuals at a time. They live together throughout the year. However, there are smaller groups consist of about 7-8 members, which are believed to be family units. They do their tasks communally, characterized by regular calls and perching close to one another in trees.

Speckled Mousebirds often sunbathe themselves to regulate their body temperature. They primarily feed on low-calorie fruits, which does not provide much energy. With that, they go into states of physical inactivity to conserve their energy. These birds have limited movements and may prefer to rest or roost together in trees, sleeping more than other bird species would. As an effect, their temperature can go down to 20°C, which is why sunbathing is necessary. They go up to exposure tree branches, opening their wings and ruffed feathers like an arc on their side. Meanwhile, they also dusk-bathe to eliminate parasites.

Since these birds thrive in comparatively more arid areas, they may breed any time long as there is enough food source available, peaking from September to January. Their courtship antics include calling, exchanging food, preening, and bobbing or hopping up and down.

Speckled Mousebirds are monogamous, but may be helped by a few helpers. Parents construct their nest in trees or bushes around 2 to 3 meters from the ground. The nest is like an open bowl, which they line with stems, twigs, plants, leaves, spider webs, and even other materials, such as paper, string, and cloth.

The female speckled mousebird lays 2 to 3 eggs. There are instances where several females can lay their clutch in a single nest. Parents jointly incubate the eggs for about 10 to 11 days. After hatching, the chick will be able to leave the nest in 10 days and learn to fly in 18 days. Juveniles are tended to and fed by the parents and the helpers for about four weeks after fledging.

Speckled mousebirds are common and widespread in its range. Urbanization has benefitted them a lot as they prefer gardens. However, they are often treated as a pest as they munch on flowers and invade crops, forcing people to hunt them actively. Nevertheless, they are still considered as a least concern species under the IUCN Red List.



Addo Elephant National Park

Cape Peninsula National Park

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Kalahari Gemsbok National Park

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Madikwe Game Reserve

St Lucia Wetlands



Lechwe Plains

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South Luangwa

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Victoria Falls

Speckled Mousebird