Family Cisticolas and allies (Cisticolidae)

Least Concern

Desert Cisticola (Cisticola aridulus)


French: Cisticole du désert German: Kalaharizistensänger Spanish: Cistícola del Kalahari

Cisticola aridula


, 1900,

Gerazi, White Nile, 60 miles [96 km] south of Khartoum, Sudan


Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. a. aridulus Witherby, 1900 – Sahel from S Mauritania and Senegal E to Sudan.
  • C. a. lavendulae Ogilvie-Grant & Reid, 1901 – Eritrea, Ethiopia, NW Somalia and N Kenya.
  • C. a. tanganyika Lynes, 1930 – C & S Kenya and Tanzania.
  • C. a. perplexus C. M. N. White, 1947 – NE Zambia (Bangweulu Swamps).
  • C. a. lobito Lynes, 1930 – W Angola.
  • C. a. traylori Benson & Irwin, 1966 – E Angola and W Zambia.
  • C. a. eremicus Clancey, 1984 – S Angola, WC & S Zambia, N Namibia, N Botswana and Zimbabwe.
  • C. a. kalahari Ogilvie-Grant, 1910 – C Namibia, S Botswana and South African Plateau.
  • C. a. caliginus Clancey, 1955 – E South Africa (lowveld and KwaZulu-Natal) and Swaziland.
  • Descriptive notes

    10 cm; 6–13 g. A small cisticola with medium-short, rounded tail and streaked upperparts. Nominate race breeding has plain creamy-white face, cheek washed grey-brown;... read more


    Male song, in air or sometimes from perch, a series of high-pitched calls of 1–2 notes, “sing... read more


    Semi-desert grasslands and semi-arid savannas with low ground cover, favouring pan systems in more... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet insects and other small invertebrates, including beetles (Coleoptera), ants and wasps (Hymenoptera), grasshoppers (Orthoptera), flies... read more


    Breeds mainly during rains, Jun–Feb N of equator and Jun–Apr in S. Territorial; nests singly or in loose clusters, with nests... read more


    Little known; resident in some areas, but may be locally nomadic in response to environmental... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common. In Kenya, density of up to 0·5 birds/ha recorded in Tsavo National Park during rains. Has benefited from agriculture in some areas, and its... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. & Dean, R. (2019). Desert Cisticola (Cisticola aridulus). 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 17 September 2019).