Unsorted Wild Birds

Levaillant’s Cisticolas or Tinkling Cisticolas (Cisticola tinniens)

Levaillant’s Cisticolas or Tinkling Cisticola, Cisticola tinniens, is a small passerine bird (though Tinkling Cisticola is also used as an alternative name for the Grey Cisticola (Cisticola rufilatus).


The Levaillant’s Cisticola is a small, 12-15 cm long, dull-colored bird with a longish tail and a reddish cap.

The upperparts of the breeding adult are grey, heavily streaked with black, and with a rufous panel in the folded wing The supercilium, face and underparts are buffy white and the tail is russet brow.

The short straight bill is blackish-brown with a pinkish base, and the feet and legs are pinkish-brown. The eye is light brown.

Non-breeding adults are browner-backed, and juvenile birds have yellower underparts.

Grey Cisticola or Tinkling Cisticola (Cisticola rufilatus)

Calls / Vocalizations

The calls include a musical chrip-trrrup-trreee, a wailing tee tee tee and harsh alarm notes.

Distribution and habitat

The cisticola is a resident breeder in eastern Africa from Kenya to eastern South Africa. It is common in reedbeds, sedges, rank grass, and similar wet habitats usually near rivers or dams.


Levaillant’s Cisticola is usually seen in pairs, singly, or in small family parties. Flitting through the grass as it forages for small insects. It is vocal and conspicuous, perching on the top of tall grass stems and reeds and making its alarm call.


The cisticola builds a ball-shaped nest with a side entrance from dry grass, cobwebs and felted plant down. It is usually placed in a tuft of grass or weeds, which are standing in, or hanging over water. Nesting occurs from August to October.

Levaillant’s Cisticola or Tinkling Cisticola, Cisticola tinniens

Conservation Status

This common species has a large range, with an estimated extent of 1,400,000 km².

The population size is believed to be large, and the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations).

For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.


  • Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa (Struik 2002) ISBN 1-86872-721-1

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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