Speckled mousebird

Their dull mousy-brown color justifies the name pretty well

Jerry Friedman

A curious and engaging presence in the avian world. It is the largest of the mousebird family and can be identified by its lengthy tail, which makes up over half of its total length of 35 cm (14 inches). This distinctive feature, coupled with their soft, greyish-brown plumage speckled with white, gives the bird an appearance that is both unique and striking.

Native to the African continent, these birds are well adapted to a variety of environments but show a particular affinity for the savannahs, where their natural habitat provides the resources they require. Interestingly, the Speckled mousebird has demonstrated a remarkable ability to thrive in urban settings as well. They are commonly observed in backyard gardens, where they exhibit a level of comfort with human activity, making them a familiar sight for many residents.

Unlike many of their avian counterparts, Speckled mousebirds are not celebrated for melodious songs. Their vocalizations are often described as a series of clicks, creaks, and whirring sounds, which, while lacking in musicality, serve as an effective means of communication within their social groups. These birds are highly gregarious, rarely seen alone, and their social structures are complex.

The Speckled mousebird’s diet is primarily frugivorous, feasting on a variety of fruits, which they often consume while hanging upside down from branches in a display of their acrobatic prowess. However, their diet is supplemented by leaves, flowers, and the occasional insect, which provides additional nutrients necessary for their health.

One of the more peculiar habits of the Speckled mousebird is dust bathing, a communal activity that involves groups of birds lying in dust patches and flicking dust over their feathers with their wings and feet. This behavior is not merely for cleanliness; it is believed to help maintain feather health and deter parasites. Another interesting trait is their ingestion of small pebbles, a practice known as gastrolithiasis, which aids in grinding up and digesting food within their gizzards, as these birds lack the strong jaw muscles for mastication.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Angola
2016
Botswana
2016
Burundi
2016
Cameroon
2016
Central Af. Rep.
2016
Congo-Brazzaville
2016
DR Congo (Kinshasa)
2016
Equatorial Guinea
2016
Eritrea
2016
Eswatini
2016
Ethiopia
2016
Gabon
2016
Ghana
2016
Kenya
2016
Lesotho
2016
Malawi
2016
Mozambique
2016
Nigeria
2016
Rwanda
2016
Somalia
2016
South Africa
2016
South Sudan
2016
Sudan
2016
Tanzania
2016
Uganda
2016
Zambia
2016
Zimbabwe
2016

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic / Monomorphic (size)

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No