This bird is about 35 cm (14 inches) long, with the tail comprising approximately half the length, and weighs about 57 grams (2 oz). It 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. The rare White-headed Mousebird can be confused with this species, but the differently colored mandibles and the lack of a bare grey orbital patch render the Speckled species distinctive.
The Speckled Mousebird is not known for its voice, as songbirds are, although it is a noisy creature. They make a warbling tsu-tsu call while in flight, and are known for their tisk-tisk alarm call while in flight.
Range and habitat
It is distributed from Cameroon east to Eritrea and Ethiopia, south through eastern Africa to southern South Africa. Most habitats are suitable for this species, except the rainforests and more arid areas. This mousebird prefers open bushveld habitats. 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.
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.
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 (apparently based on latitude), but usually averages 3–4. Nestlings are fed by both parents and also by helpers, which usually are juveniles from previous clutches. The incubation period is fourteen days and the offspring will leave the nest for the first time at about seventeen or eighteen days. After a little over a month, the nestlings will begin foraging for themselves.
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- Sinclair, I., et al. SASOL Birds of Southern Africa. Struik. 2002. ISBN 1-86872-721-1
- Speckled Mousebird - Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds.