Colius is a genus of mousebirds in the family Coliidae. The four species are widely distributed in Africa. Two other African mousebirds are placed in the genus Urocolius.

Colius striatus1.jpg
Speckled mousebird, Colius striatus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coliiformes
Family: Coliidae
Genus: Colius
Brisson, 1760
Type species
Loxia colius
Linnaeus, 1766

Colius castanotus
Colius colius
Colius leucocephalus
Colius striatus

The genus Colius was introduced by the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760 with the white-backed mousebird (Colius colius) as the type species.[1][2]

The genus contains the following four species:[3]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Colius striatus - Wüstenhaus.jpg Colius striatus Speckled mousebird Cameroon east to Eritrea and Ethiopia, south through eastern Africa to southern South Africa
White-headed Mousebird - Samburu NH8O5520.jpg Colius leucocephalus White-headed mousebird southern Somalia and parts of Kenya with its range just extending into southern Ethiopia and northern Tanzania
Colius castanotus Red-backed mousebird Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Colius White-backed mousebird feeding on Duranta berries 9860s.jpg Colius colius White-backed mousebird southern Africa from Namibia and southern Botswana eastwards to Central Transvaal and the eastern Cape

A fossil species, Colius hendeyi, was described from Early Pliocene remains found at Langebaanweg in South Africa.

Some Miocene taxa from France were previously assigned to Colius. Of these, only the Middle Miocene "Colius" palustris might plausibly belong there,[4] but it is more often separated in Necrornis. In younger lineages like Passeriformes, extant genera (e.g. Menura and Orthonyx) were around by then, though it must be remembered that simply because two taxa are of same taxonomic rank they do not need to be of the same age. All that can be said is that while it cannot be ruled out that the modern genus Colius was around in Miocene Europe, it more likely evolved later, and probably in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Colius" archiaci, "C." consobrinus and "C." paludicola on the other hand are 3 taxa described from fragmentary remains found at Saint-Gérand-le-Puy. Their taxonomic history is convoluted, being initially described as woodpeckers and variously merged and split. Today it is believed that they might all belong to a species in the modern genus Urocolius, or at least 2 into a prehistoric genus Limnatornis.[4]


  1. ^ Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode Contenant la Division des Oiseaux en Ordres, Sections, Genres, Especes & leurs Variétés (in French and Latin). Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. Vol. 1, p. 36, Vol. 3, p. 304.
  2. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1945). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 5. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 143.
  3. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2019). "Mousebirds, trogons, Cuckoo Roller". World Bird List Version 9.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b Mlíkovský (2002)