Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Acrobats of the undergrowth “Mousebirds”

In the field, mousebirds are fascinating and entertaining birds to observe, and the more so when we consider that these enigmatic African birds are the sole survivors of a diverse and puzzling lineage.

Mousebird, common name for a family of small birds found only in Africa. The mousebird lives in open woodland and bushy country south of the Sahara.

Mousebirds (order Coliiformes) are one of those puzzling birds for birders in the field. They do not look or act much like any other birds. The mousebirds are a small group of (possibly near passerine) birds, which have no known close affinities to other groups, though might be close to trogons and owls.

They are arboreal and scurry through the leaves much like rodents, in search of berries, fruit and buds. This habit, and their legs, gives rise to the group's English name “mousebirds”. It is a ground bird capable of moving quickly through thick foliage or along the ground by running or hopping.

Mousebirds are social fruit-eaters that acrobatically dangle precariously at odd angles in tight clumps, feet spread wide and long tails often splayed. The six living species are all found in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Speckled Mousebird (Colius striatus) is the largest species of mousebird, as well as one of the most common.

 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.

Interested in Birding in East Africa - Contact the experts 

Photos by C.T Schalkwyk as part of a Premier Safaris Birding Trip in Kenya 

Accommodation at the Aberdares country club and "the Ark" - or contact Premier Safaris at for full package tours to Kenya or Uganda.