Speckled Mousebird

Speckled Mousebird


Just about all of sub-Saharan Africa south of a line from Nigeria across to Ethiopia.


It is widespread in savanna and open woodlands, as well as areas with tangled thickets. It is a common "backyard bird," often seen in urban areas that contain gardens and orchards.


This bird is well-named, because it is dull-mousy brown in overall color on the back and on the head (including a prominent crest). The bill is black on the upper part and is a pinkish color on the lower part. Legs and feet are dark pinkish-red.

The speckled mousebird is not known for its voice, as songbirds are, although they are known to be very noisy. They make a warbling tsu-tsu call while in flight, and are known for their tisk-tisk alarm call while in flight.

Speckled Mousebird

These are conspicuously social birds, feeding together and engaging in mutual preening. They also accompany each other when they go to ground to dust bathe (also to occasionally to swallow pebbles to assist in grinding up vegetation as they digest it). Upon nightfall, they roost in very tight groups of 20 or so birds and on cold nights they can become torpid. Being in a torpid state could make them easy prey, but the large groups are apparently effective enough to deter most nocturnal predators.

In the air, speckled mousebirds are not very graceful. They create quite the sight since they beat their wings rapidly while appearing off balance. And they finish off by crash landing into bushes or trees. Like other mousebirds, this species attempts to escape predators by flying into a thick bush or tree. It then freezes until the danger is past. Or, if the danger is prolonged, it may drop to the ground like a stone and scurry away. Quite agile in trees, it climbs like a parrot, using its beak and legs. An acrobatic feeder, it sometimes feeds upside down, enabled by its strong claws, which also enable it to sleep in a hanging position next to a mate.


These creatures may breed at any time of the year. The nest is a large (for the bird) and untidy cup made of vegetable and animal material (sometimes including cloth and paper) and is constructed by both the male and female. Clutch size ranges from one to seven eggs with an incubation period of fourteen days.

The survival rate of speckled mousebirds is worse than most bird species. Only about half the eggs hatch. And of those that do, only about half reach two months. However they are prolific egg layers. When incubating, the parents alternate on the nest. The changeover is accompanied by a ritual display of beak opening accompanied by soft vocalizations. As well, they often present a leaf or other nesting material to the sitting bird.

Interesting Facts:

Speckled Mousebird fly in family groups. The birds fly in single file with alternated humming wing-beats and glides with stiff long tail feathers.

Speckled Mousebird
Did YOU Know?    
Speckled Mousebirds get their name from the similar appearance of this bird with a mouse, when it moves through vegetation.
Speckled Mousebird
Class: birds
Order: Coliidae
Family: Colius
Genus: Colius
Species: C. striatus
Length: 14 inches including the tail
Weight: 2 oz.
Wild Diet: fruits, berries, leaves, seeds and nectar
Zoo Diet: Finch mix, fruit, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, mealworms, and crickets.
Predators: snakes, carnivorous birds, and mammals
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Not Listed
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building

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