3 minute read

Mousebirds: Coliiformes

Bar-breasted Mousebird (colius Striatus): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Bar-breasted mousebirds, also called speckled mousebirds, have mostly brownish gray plumage, and their crests are the same color. The length of the long-tailed birds ranges from 10.2 to 14.2 inches (26 to 36 centimeters). Weight ranges from 1.3 to 2.8 ounces (36 to 80 grams).

The white-eared bar-breasted mousebirds of East Africa have white feathers on the sides of their heads. A subspecies in the northern range has a white spot on its upper mandible (jaw). Birds in one subspecies have bills that are black on top and pink on the bottom. Some groups of birds have white or blue marks on their bills.

Another difference is the color of the iris, the round part of the eye surrounding the pupil. Iris colors in subspecies include white, brown, and green. In addition, the iris may be two-toned, with the color above the pupil different from the color below it.

Geographic range: Bar-breasted mousebirds live in countries including Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Habitat: Bar-breasted mousebirds live in grassland, deciduous forests, parks, gardens, and orchards where fruit trees grow.

Diet: Bar-breasted mousebirds eat fruit, berries, and plant buds and leaves. The type of food varies by habitat. Birds eat items native to an area along with fruits such as strawberries and tomatoes. The birds sometimes eat insects.

Behavior and reproduction: Bar-breasted mousebirds live in flocks of from six to thirty birds. The smaller group is usually a family of birds. Larger flocks consist of birds that look for food together and spend nights in the same trees. During the day, mousebirds feed and bathe. They also preen, cleaning their feathers with their beaks. At night, the flock roosts in tree branches.

Bar-breasted mousebirds can breed throughout the year. When birds breed depends on factors such as whether food is available to feed the young. During this season, birds pair off. The female lays one to five eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs.

The breeding pair may be helped by other birds. These cooperative breeders help with incubation and feeding. The helpers consist of one to three young birds of the same sex. Males are older offspring of the parents; females may not be related.

Bar-breasted mousebird eggs hatch in about twelve days, and chicks have yellow tongues. After the birds fledge, the parents may breed again. A female can lay up to eight clutches in a year.

Since mousebirds live in groups, this provides some protection from predators. Automobile drivers are a greater danger to bar-breasted mousebirds because the birds fly in a line one after the other. While flying in this pattern, drivers may accidentally kill the birds.

Bar-breasted mousebirds and people: People have various relationships with bar-breasted mousebirds. They sometimes resent the birds for ruining crops and taking fruit. People also admire the birds. The country of Gabon honored the bird with a 1992 stamp, and people in England bred captive mousebirds in 1912. Since then, people in countries including the United States keep bar-breasted mousebirds as cage, or captive, birds.

Conservation status: Bar-breasted mousebirds are not in danger of extinction. ∎



del Hoyo, Josep, et al., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1992.

Dickinson, Edward C., ed. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ and Oxford, U.K.: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopedia of Birds, 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1998.

Harrison, Colin James Oliver. Birds of the World. London and New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.

Stuart, Chris and Tilde. Birds of Africa From Seabirds to Seed Eaters. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999.


McKechnie, Andrew E., and Barry G. Lovegrove. "Thermoregulation and the Energetic Significance of Clustering Behavior in the White-Backed Mousebird (Colius colius)." Physiological and Biochemical Zoology (March 2001): 238.

Web sites:

Kenya Birds. "Speckled Mousebird." Kenya Birds. http://www.kenyabirds.org.uk/s_mbird.htm (accessed on June 8, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsMousebirds: Coliiformes - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Bar-breasted Mousebird (colius Striatus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, MOUSEBIRDS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS