Family Cisticolas and allies (Cisticolidae)

Least Concern

Golden-headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilis)


French: Cisticole à couronne dorée German: Goldkopf-Zistensänger Spanish: Cistícola cabecidorado

Malurus exilis

Vigors and Horsfield

, 1827,

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Affinities uncertain; closely resembles C. eximius, but seasonal change in tail length much greater. Separation of Asian and Australian taxa on vocal grounds, and of erythrocephalus from tytleri on morphological grounds, may be appropriate, but no sound recordings available to contribute further evidence#R; similarly no recordings available to consider the case of distinctive form courtoisi. Distributions of some taxa may require revision; for example, some authors consider entire population of Western Australia to belong to lineocapilla#R. Twelve subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. e. erythrocephalus Blyth, 1851 – S India (C & S Karnataka, W Tamil Nadu and Kerala).
  • C. e. tytleri Jerdon, 1863 – N India and S Nepal E to N & W Myanmar and S China (SE Xizang, W Yunnan).
  • C. e. equicaudatus E. C. S. Baker, 1924 – E Myanmar, Thailand (except S), Laos, Cambodia and S Vietnam.
  • C. e. courtoisi La Touche, 1926 – S & E China (SE Yunnan E to S Anhui and NW Fujian, S to Guanxi and Guangdong).
  • C. e. volitans (Swinhoe, 1859) – Taiwan.
  • C. e. semirufus Cabanis, 1872 – Philippines (except Palawan) and Sulu Archipelago.
  • C. e. lineocapilla Gould, 1847 – Sumatra, SW Borneo, Java, Lesser Sundas and NW Australia.
  • C. e. rusticus Wallace, 1863 – Sulawesi, Peleng, Buru and Seram.
  • C. e. diminutus Mathews, 1922 – New Guinea lowlands, islands in Torres Strait and NE Australia (N Queensland).
  • C. e. polionotus Mayr, 1934 – Bismarck Archipelago (New Britain, New Ireland and adjacent islands).
  • C. e. alexandrae Mathews, 1912 – N Australia (N Western Australia, interior of Northern Territory E to C Queensland).
  • C. e. exilis (Vigors & Horsfield, 1827) – SE Australia (SE Queensland, New South Wales, SE South Australia, SE Victoria, and King I).
  • Descriptive notes

    9–11·5 cm; male 7–10 g, female 6–8 g. A small cisticola with streaked upper­parts; rounded tail short in breeding plumage, of medium length in... read more


    Male song, given in summer breeding season, from exposed perch or in air, of 1–3 nasal,... read more


    Rank grassland in savanna and woodland, bracken scrub, grassy hillsides and croplands, including... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet mainly small insects and other invertebrates, including grasshoppers (Orthoptera), moths and caterpillars (Lepidoptera), ants (... read more


    Mainly during rains, Apr–Aug in India, May–Jul in China, Apr–Sept in SE Asia and Philippines, Sept–Mar in Sulawesi... read more


    Mainly resident or locally nomadic, moving in response to local habitat changes (e.g. grassland... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common throughout much of its range; rare in C India. In Australia, density estimated at up to 26·7 birds/ha in Kimberley region, but... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. (2019). Golden-headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilis). 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).