Family Mousebirds (Coliidae)

Least Concern

White-backed Mousebird (Colius colius)


French: Coliou à dos blanc German: Weißrücken-Mausvogel Spanish: Pájaro ratón dorsiblanco

Loxia Colius


, 1766,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Races intergrade, and are often merged. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. damarensis Reichenow, 1899 – Namibia and parts of S Botswana S to N South Africa (NW Northern Cape Province).
  • C. c. colius (Linnaeus, 1766) – South Africa from Western Cape Province E to Eastern Cape and Free State and N to Gauteng.
  • Descriptive notes

    29–32 cm, including elongated tail of 20–23 cm; 31–59 g. Both sexes of nominate race have light grey head, crest and upperparts, narrow white stripe down... read more


    Short, sharp buzzing notes, with contact and flight calls much like those of C. striatus... read more


    Wide variety of wooded and bushy habitat types, primarily in semi-arid and arid country; often in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Largely fruits, also leaves, flowers and nectar. In South Africa, fruits of 27 species, leaves of seven species and flowers of four species... read more


    Lays throughout year, with peak in Sept–Dec (wet season) and, in most zones, protracted through Jan–Apr. Monogamous and... read more


    Sedentary, although some nomadic movements may occur.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Usually common, especially in S half of range; in South Africa, less numerous away from SW arid zone of Cape Province and dry... read more

    Recommended citation

    de Juana, E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). White-backed Mousebird (Colius colius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 December 2018).