Mousebirds are not related to any other order of birds and all six species are only found in sub-Saharan Africa. There are many fossil records of related birds within this group showing a much more diverse lineage in the past. They are also believed to have first originated in Europe. The few species alive today might be considered living fossils and remnants of a group of birds lost in the past. Owls and trogons are believed to be their closest living relatives.
The speckled mousebird (Colius striatus), is the largest species, and one of the most common mousebirds. It grows to a length of 35 cm (14 in), with the tail taking up over half the length. The bird has an overall dull brown plumage, a prominent crest, and a dark brown eye situated in a dark featherless patch. The upper part of the bill is black, and lower part is whitish.
Speckled mousebirds prefer open habitats such as savannahs and open woodlands. They are also common in urban and suburban areas with sufficient parks, gardens, and orchards. They are frugivorous, meaning a large portion of their diet is fruits, berries and seeds, although they also eat leaves and other plant matter.
The speckled mousebird is social both in and outside of the breeding season, and roost at night in groups of about 20 individuals. It is a noisy species, constantly chatting and tweeting. They also have different alarm calls for predators. Males can have both one or multiple females when breeding, which can be any time between July and April, peaking between September and January. A nest of both plant and animal material is made by both sexes, and an average of three to four eggs are laid and incubated for 14 days. Chicks are fed by both parents and juvenile helpers that may or may not be related. After 17-18 days the chicks leave the nest, and will be fully independent after one more month.
The speckles mousebird is a common and widespread species. It seems to have benefited from human development, thriving in urban gardens and parks where it sometimes is seen as a pest. It is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List.