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Coliidae – Mousebirds

Speckled Mousebird in South Africa: Photo by Kalin Ocaña

Mousebirds, native to sub-Saharan Africa, are small, social birds with unique soft, hair-like plumage. They are named for their mouse-like scurrying through foliage and their ability to cling upside-down, thanks to their strong, reversible toes. Highly gregarious, they are often seen in small flocks, feeding on fruits, leaves, and buds. Mousebirds’ long tails and crests add to their distinctive appearance, making them easily recognizable in their natural habitat.

Overview of Coliidae

Mousebirds are highly social birds with fast, direct flight, moving in flocks through African woodlands and savannas. They hurtle into leaves and branches without slowing down. In cold and wet weather, these stocky, mouse-brown birds with small crests and long tails can enter torpor and huddle in large family groups. They often perch on branches but are equally likely to hang upside-down, using their versatile toes (two, three, or four forward!). Sometimes, they hang on with one foot while manipulating food with the other, and they often run along branches in a crouched, mouse-like manner.