Family Cisticolas and allies (Cisticolidae)

Least Concern

Levaillant's Cisticola (Cisticola tinniens)


French: Cisticole à sonnette German: Vleyzistensänger Spanish: Cistícola de Levaillant

Malurus tinniens

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1842,

Vaal River, South Africa


Birds from SW South Africa recently described as race brookei, but this name is pre-dated by elegans. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. t. dyleffi Prigogine, 1952 – E DRCongo (NW of L Tanganyika).
  • C. t. oreophilus van Someren, 1922 – W Kenyan highlands.
  • C. t. perpullus E. J. O. Hartert, 1920 – Angola, S DRCongo and W Zambia.
  • C. t. shiwae C. M. N. White, 1947 – E Zambia, SW Tanzania and extreme SE DRCongo.
  • C. t. tinniens (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1842) – Zimbabwe, adjacent highlands of Mozambique and summer-rainfall area of South Africa.
  • C. t. elegans (Hartlaub & Finsch, 1870) – SW South Africa (W of Port Elizabeth).
  • Descriptive notes

    13–14 cm; male 11–14 g, female 9–12 g. A medium-sized cisticola with boldly striped back, brightly patterned plumage, and long graduated tail. Nominate race... read more


    Male song, given throughout year, a lively, musical phrase lasting 0·8–1 seconds, with... read more


    Rank grasses and sedges, edges of reedbeds, bamboo, moist grassland and shrubs, sometimes far from... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet mainly small insects and other invertebrates, including small beetles and weevils (Coleoptera), ants and wasps (Hymenoptera), short-... read more


    Breeds Jul–May, usually in rains; in South Africa, 2–3 months earlier in winter-rainfall region (race elegans) than in... read more


    Mostly resident; suspected to move locally to lower elevations in winter in South Africa, but... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant in South Africa, becoming less common farther N. Has benefited from construction of farm dams in South Africa, this offsetting... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. & Dean, R. (2019). Levaillant's Cisticola (Cisticola tinniens). 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 19 September 2019).