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Urocolius indicus (Red-faced mousebird) 

Rooiwangmuisvoël [Afrikaans]; Intshili [Xhosa]; umTshivovo [Zulu]; Ediratoto [Kwangali]; Fariki (generic term for mousebirds) [South Sotho]; Letswiyobaba [North Sotho]; Shirapopo [Shona]; Umtjivovo [Swazi]; Indlazi [Tsonga]; Letsibaba, Letsôrô, Mmamarungwane [Tswana]; Roodwangmuisvogel [Dutch]; Coliou quiriva [French]; Rotzügel-mausvogel [German]; Rabo-de-junco-de-faces-vermelhas [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Coliiformes > Family: Coliidae

Urocolius indicus (Red-faced mousebird)  

Red-faced mousebird, north of Durbanville, Western Cape. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]


The Red-faced mousebird is locally common in all countries in southern Africa, and lives in a wide variety of habitats. It feeds mainly on fruit, with flowers largely making up the rest of its diet. The nest is a small cup of twigs, leaves and stems, placed 2-8 metres above ground in a tree or bush. It lays 1-7 eggs, which are incubated for 14-20 days, by both sexes and sometimes a helper. The chicks are brooded for the first few days of their life, sometimes by both adults at once. They stay in the nest for 14-20 days, before becoming independent.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from southern Angola, Zambia and Malawi to southern Africa, where it is common in non-arid areas. It generally prefers Acacia savanna and thickets, gardens, woodland with nearby rivers, strandveld, gardens and orchards.

Distribution of Red-faced mousebird in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  



Recorded by June Stannard, Amanzi, near Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, South Africa 1965, [© Transvaal Museum]




Its diet is dominated by fruit, supplemented with nectar, flowers and leaves. It typically forages in groups of 3-10, landing in trees and bushes to forage.

  • Plants
    • fruits
      • Boscia albitrunca (Shepherds-tree)
      • Carissa haemotocarpa (Karoo num-nun)
      • Diospyros (Jackal-berries)
      • Euclea undulata (Small-leaved guarri)
      • Ficus (Figs)
      • Grewia (Raisins)
      • Lycium (Honey-thorns)
      • mistletoes
        • Moquinella rubra
        • Tapinathus oleifolius
        • Septulina glauca
        • Viscum
      • alien plants
        • Schinus molle (from California, USA)
        • Schinus terebinthifolius (from Brazil)
        • Melia azedarach (Persian lilac)
        • Morus (Mulberries)
        • Apricots
        • Peaches
        • Guavas
        • Grapes
    • flowers
    • leaves and shoots
      • Acacia
      • Lycium (honey-thorns)
    • nectar of Aloe marlothii (Mountain Aloe)


  • Monogamous, cooperative breeder, meaning that the breeding pair are assisted by helpers. Courtship involves preening and a "bouncing display", in which one bird bounces up and down on its perch, the tempo increasing as its mate gets closer.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of an untidy, small cup of twigs, leaves and stems lined with soft material. It is typically placed 2-8 metres above ground, in a tree or shrub.
Urocolius indicus (Red-faced mousebird)  

Red-faced mousebird nest with eggs, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying is usually from June to February, peaking from September-November.
  • It lays 1-7 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes and sometimes helpers, for 10-15 days.
  • The chicks are brooded for the first few days of their life, sometimes by both adults at once. They stay in the nest for 14-20 days, after which they become fully independent.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.