Red-faced Mousebird (Urocolius indicus)

Cover image by J. Jordaan – Addo Elephant National Park – BirdPix 31413 Red-faced Mousebird


The Red-faced Mousebird has a slaty-grey head and crest with a pale cinnamon forehead. As its name suggests, it has a distinctive red patch around its eyes which continues to the base of its bill. Its upperparts and long tail are blue-grey. The sexes are similar, but juveniles lack the crest and have a pale mask.

Identification guide to adult Red-faced Mousebird
Left: BirdPix 46 – Warren Pike, Brakpan, Gauteng, 13 August 2012. Right: BirdPix 27572 – Gregg & Desire Darling, Addo, Eastern Cape, 28 May 2016.
Identification guide to juvenile Red-faced Mousebird
Juvenile Red-faced Mousebirds. Left: BirdPix 44007- Anthony Paton, Klipriviersberg, Gauteng, 16 April 2015. Right: BirdPix 50184 – Tony Archer, Klerksdorp, North West, 19 February 2018.

In flight it gives a distinctive high-pitched melodious “ti-wii-wii” call.

There are two other species of mousebird in southern Africa, the Speckled Mousebird and the White-backed Mousebird.


The Red-faced Mousebird occurs from southern Angola, Zambia and Malawi, through to southern Africa, where it is common in non-arid areas. The blue and green squares in the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) map below indicates the core of its range in South Africa.

SABAP2 distribution map for Urocolius indicus
SABAP2 distribution map for Red-faced Mousebird, downloaded on 10 November 2022. Details for map interpretation can be found here.


It generally prefers is savanna habitat with thickets, fynbos scrub, open woodland, as well as gardens and orchards.

Habitat for Red-faced Mousebird
In the scrub, gathering twigs for a nest – BirdPix 59112 – Dave Rimmer, Cape Town, Western Cape, 28 April 2017.


Red-faced Mousebirds are almost always found in pairs or small groups. Their diet consists mainly of fruit, supplemented with nectar, flowers, and leaves. They typically forage in groups of 3-10, landing in trees and bushes in search of food.

More habitats for Red-faced Mousebirds
Frugivore! Eating some delicious fruits. Left: BirdPix 16370 – Pamela Kleiman, Steyterville, Eastern Cape, 17 March 2015. Top Right: BirdPix 20422 – Dewald du Plessis, Bloemfontein, Free State, 05 September 2006. Lower Right: BirdPix 57886 – Gregg Darling, St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape, 06 August 2018.

Mousebirds love taking a sand bath! They are social birds and often engage in mutual preening.

Urocolius indicus having a sand bath
Having a good sand bath – BirdPix 72958 – Norman Barrett & Rajagopalan Padmanabhan, Lusaka, Zambia, 11 February 2019.

They breed throughout the year, but breeding activity peaks during spring and summer (September to February). The nest is a small cup of made of twigs, leaves and stems, and placed 2-8 metres above the ground in a tree or bush.

Red-faced Mousebirds lay 1-7 eggs, which are incubated by the male and female for 14-20 days. The chicks stay in the nest for 14-20 days after hatching, before becoming independent.

juvenile Red-faced Mousebird
Baby Red-faced Mousebird in the nest! – BirdPix 9108 – Pieter Cronje, Luanda, Angola, 30 July 2014.

Further Resources

Species text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

More common names: Rooiwangmuisvoël (Afrikaans); Intshili (Xhosa); umTshivovo (Zulu); Fariki (South Sotho); Rotzügel-mausvogel (German); Roodwangmuisvogel (Dutch).

Recommended citation format: Loftie-Eaton M and Daniel KA 2022. Red-faced Mousebird Urocolius indicus. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.