|Zitting cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)|
Cisticolas (pronounced sis-TIC-olas) are a genus of very small insectivorous birds formerly classified in the Old World warbler family Sylviidae, but now usually considered to be in the separate family Cisticolidae, along with other southern warbler genera. They are believed to be quite closely related to the swallows and martins, the bulbuls and the white-eyes. The genus contains about 50 species, of which only two are not found in Africa: one in Madagascar and the other from Asia to Australasia. They are also sometimes called fantail-warblers due to their habit of conspicuously flicking their tails, or tailor-birds because of their nests.
Range and habitat
Cisticolas are widespread through the Old World's tropical and sub-tropical regions. Africa, which is home to almost all species, is the most likely ancestral home of the group. Cisticolas are usually non-migratory with most species attached to and often distinguishable by their habitats.
A variety of open habitats are occupied. These include wetlands, moist or drier grasslands, open or rocky mountain slopes, and human-modified habitats such as road verges, cultivation, weedy areas or pasture. The species preferring wetlands can be found at the edges of mangrove, or in papyrus, common reed, or typha swamps. Cisticolas are generally quite common within what remains of their preferred habitats.
Because of their small size (about 10 cm) and brown plumage, they are more easily heard than seen. The similar plumage of many species can make them hard to identify, particularly in winter when they seldom emerge from their grasses. Many African species, in particular, are difficult to distinguish other than by their calls. Thirteen species are named for their calls, from "singing" and "chirping" to "bubbling" and "siffling".
Male cisticolas are polygamous. The female builds a discreet nest deep in the grasses, often binding living leaves into the soft fabric of felted plant down, cobweb, and grass: a cup shape for the zitting cisticola with a canopy of tied-together leaves or grasses overhead for camouflage, a full dome for the golden-headed cisticola. The average clutch is about 4 eggs, which take about 2 weeks to hatch. The parasitic weaver is a specialist parasite of cisticolas and prinias.
In summer, male cisticolas of smaller species make spectacular display flights while larger species perch in prominent places to sing lustily. Despite his size and well-camouflaged, brown-streaked plumage, the male golden-headed cisticola of Australia and southern Asia produces a small, brilliant splash of golden-yellow colour in the dappled sunlight of a reed bed.
List of species
The genus contains 50 species:
- Red-faced cisticola, Cisticola erythrops
- Singing cisticola, Cisticola cantans
- Whistling cisticola, Cisticola lateralis
- Trilling cisticola, Cisticola woosnami
- Chattering cisticola, Cisticola anonymus
- Bubbling cisticola, Cisticola bulliens
- Chubb's cisticola, Cisticola chubbi
- Hunter's cisticola, Cisticola hunteri
- Black-lored cisticola, Cisticola nigriloris
- Lazy cisticola, Cisticola aberrans
- Rattling cisticola, Cisticola chiniana
- Boran cisticola, Cisticola bodessa
- Churring cisticola, Cisticola njombe
- Ashy cisticola, Cisticola cinereolus
- Tana River cisticola, Cisticola restrictus
- Tinkling cisticola, Cisticola rufilatus
- Grey-backed cisticola, Cisticola subruficapilla
- Wailing cisticola, Cisticola lais
- Lynes's cisticola, Cisticola distinctus (sometimes considered as a subspecies of the wailing cistocola)
- Rufous-winged cisticola, Cisticola galactotes
- Winding cisticola, Cisticola marginatus
- Coastal cisticola, Cisticola haematocephalus
- Ethiopian cisticola, Cisticola lugubris
- Luapula cisticola, Cisticola luapula
- Chirping cisticola, Cisticola pipiens
- Carruthers's cisticola, Cisticola carruthersi
- Levaillant's cisticola, Cisticola tinniens
- Stout cisticola, Cisticola robustus
- Aberdare cisticola, Cisticola aberdare
- Croaking cisticola, Cisticola natalensis
- Red-pate cisticola, Cisticola ruficeps
- Dorst's cisticola, Cisticola guinea - formerly C. dorsti or included in C. ruficeps
- Tiny cisticola, Cisticola nana
- Short-winged cisticola, Cisticola brachypterus
- Rufous cisticola, Cisticola rufus
- Foxy cisticola, Cisticola troglodytes
- Neddicky, Cisticola fulvicapilla
- Long-tailed cisticola, Cisticola angusticauda
- Black-tailed cisticola, Cisticola melanurus
- Zitting cisticola, Cisticola juncidis
- Socotra cisticola, Cisticola haesitatus
- Madagascan cisticola, Cisticola cherina
- Desert cisticola, Cisticola aridulus
- Cloud cisticola, Cisticola textrix
- Black-backed cisticola, Cisticola eximius
- Dambo cisticola, Cisticola dambo
- Pectoral-patch cisticola, Cisticola brunnescens
- Pale-crowned cisticola, Cisticola cinnamomeus
- Wing-snapping cisticola, Cisticola ayresii
- Golden-headed cisticola, Cisticola exilis
- Kaup, Johann Jakob (1829). Skizzirte Entwickelungs-Geschichte und natürliches System der europäischen Thierwelt (in German). Darmstadt: Carl Wilhelm Leske. p. 119.
- Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William, eds. (1986). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 11. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 84.
- Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
- Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Grassbirds, Donacobius, Malagasy warblers, cisticolas & allies". World Bird List Version 7.3. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
- Ryan, P.; Dean, R. (2017). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E., eds. "Wailing Cisticola (Cisticola lais)". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 27 August 2017. (Subscription required (help)).
- Nguembock B.; Fjeldsa J.; Tillier A.; Pasquet E. (2007): A phylogeny for the Cisticolidae (Aves: Passeriformes) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequence data, and a re-interpretation of a unique nest-building specialization. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 42: 272-286.
- Ryan, Peter (2006). Family Cisticolidae (Cisticolas and allies). Pp. 378–492 in del Hoyo J., Elliott A. & Christie D.A. (2006) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 11. Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers Lynx Edicions, Barcelona ISBN 978-84-96553-06-4
- Cisticola videos on the Internet Bird Collection