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Scientific classification

The mousebirds are a small group of near passerine birds which have no clear affinities to other groups, and are therefore given order status. This group is confined to sub-Saharan Africa, and is the only bird order confined entirely to that continent. This group may have had a wider range in the past. There is a record of a fossil mousebird from the Eocene in England.

They are slender greyish or brown birds with soft, hairlike body feathers and very long thin tails. They are arboreal and scurry through the leaves like rodents in search of berries, fruit and buds. This habit, and their appearance, gives rise to the group's English name. They are acrobatic, and can feed upside down. All species have strong claws and reversible outer toes. They also have crests and stubby bills.

Mousebirds are gregarious, again reinforcing the analogy with mice, and are found in bands of about twenty in lightly wooded country.

These birds build twig nests in trees, which are lined with grasses. 2-4 eggs are typically laid, hatching to give quite precocious young which soon leave the nest and acquire flight.

The species are


  • family: Coliidae
    • genus: Colius
      • Speckled Mousebird, Colius striatus
      • White-headed Mousebird, Colius leucocephalus
      • Red-backed Mousebird, Colius castanotus
      • White-backed Mousebird, Colius colius
    • genus: Urocolius
      • Blue-naped Mousebird, Urocolius macrourus
      • Red-faced Mousebird, Urocolius indicus

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