White-backed Mousebird

The White-backed Mousebird (Colius colius) is a large species of mousebird. It is distributed in western and central regions of southern Africa from Namibia and southern Botswana eastwards to Central Transvaal and the eastern Cape.

This mousebird prefers scrubby dry habitats, such as thornveld, fynbos scrub and semi-desert.

This bird is about 34 cm (13 inches) long, with the tail comprising approximately half the length, and weighs 38–64 g (1.3–2.3 oz). The upperparts, head, prominent crest and breast are grey apart from a black-bordered white back stripe and a dark red spot at the base of the tail. The belly is buff in colour. The bill is bluish white with a black tip, and the legs and feet are red.

The Speckled Mousebird can bedistinguished from this species by its differently coloured mandible, legs and upperparts.

The White-headed Mousebird is a frugivore which subsides on fruits, berries, leaves, seeds and nectar.

This is a conspicuously social bird, with groups of birds feeding together and engaging in mutual preening. It roosts in groups at night

These sedentary birds may breed at any time of the year when conditions are favourable. The nest is a large cup well hidden in a thicket. Nestlings are fed by both parents and also by helpers, usually young birds from previous clutches.

The White-headed Mousebird has a whistled zwee-wewit call.


  • Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa (Struik 2002) ISBN 1-86872-721-1

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