"Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die,
Life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly."
- Langston Huges
"Mousey" pencil sketch and watercolour in Moleskine watercolour sketch-book
The Mouse birds are regular visitors to my garden and my affinity to them stems from "Mousey", whom I picked up on the lawn as a tiny, featherless little bird and who then stayed with me for several months, the most gorgeous, loving little bird you can imagine. She was highly intelligent, coming from wherever she was in the garden when I called. An interesting fact about these little birds is that they have sand baths, like chickens, and never go in the water. I did these sketches when she was still with me.
The mousebirds are a small group of (possibly near passerine) birds which have no real close affinities to other groups, though they and the parrots and cockatoos (Psittaciformes) may be closer to each other than to other birds. The mousebirds are therefore given order status as Coliiformes. This group is confined to sub-Saharan Africa, and is the only bird order confined entirely to that continent. They had a wider range in prehistoric times and apparently evolved in Europe.
They are slender greyish or brown birds with soft, hairlike body feathers. They are typically about 10 centimetres in body length, with a long, thin, tail a further 20-24 centimetres in length, and weigh 45-55 grams. They are arboreal and scurry through the leaves like rodents, in search of berries, fruit and buds. This habit, and their legs, gives rise to the group's English name. They are acrobatic, and can feed upside down. All species have strong claws and reversible outer toes. They also have crests and stubby bills.
Mousebirds are gregarious, again reinforcing the analogy with mice, and are found in bands of about twenty in lightly wooded country.
They build cup-shaped twig nests in trees, which are lined with grasses. 2-4 eggs are normally laid, hatching to give quite precocious young which soon leave the nest and acquire flight.
Speckled Mouse Bird -
Pic from E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer