Family Cisticolas and allies (Cisticolidae)

Least Concern

Rattling Cisticola (Cisticola chiniana)


French: Cisticole grinçante German: Rotscheitel-Zistensänger Spanish: Cistícola cascabel

Drymoica chiniana

A. Smith

, 1843,

near Zeerust, South Africa


Geographical variation complex, and many races possibly no more than clinal forms; taxonomic review needed. Proposed race huilensis (S Angola) synonymized with smithersi. N population of nominate race recently split as race vulpiniceps, supposedly having redder crown, less streaked upperparts and whiter underparts in non-breeding plumage, but not widely accepted. Seventeen subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. simplex (Heuglin, 1869) – S South Sudan, NE DRCongo and N Uganda.
  • C. c. fortis Lynes, 1930 – SE Gabon, Congo and S DRCongo S to NC Angola and Zambia (except SW & E).
  • C. c. fricki Mearns, 1913 – Eritrea, Ethiopia and N Kenya.
  • C. c. humilis Madarász, 1904 – highlands of E Uganda and W Kenya.
  • C. c. ukamba Lynes, 1930 – highlands of C Kenya and N Tanzania.
  • C. c. heterophrys Oberholser, 1906 – coastal Kenya and N Tanzania.
  • C. c. victoria Lynes, 1930 – SW Kenya and N Tanzania (area around L Victoria).
  • C. c. fischeri Reichenow, 1891 – NC Tanzania.
  • C. c. keithi Parkes, 1987 – SC Tanzania.
  • C. c. mbeya Parkes, 1987 – S Tanzania.
  • C. c. emendatus Vincent, 1944 – SE Tanzania, Malawi and N Mozambique.
  • C. c. procerus W. K. H. Peters, 1868 – E Zambia, S Malawi and C Mozambique.
  • C. c. bensoni Traylor, 1964 – S Zambia.
  • C. c. smithersi B. P. Hall, 1956 – S Angola, extreme N Namibia, NW Botswana, and extreme SW Zambia and W Zimbabwe.
  • C. c. chiniana (A. Smith, 1843) – Zimbabwe, interior S Mozambique, SE Botswana and South African Plateau.
  • C. c. frater Reichenow, 1916 – C Namibia.
  • C. c. campestris Gould, 1845 – coastal plain of S Mozambique, Swaziland and E South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    12–15 cm; male 12–21 g, female 10–18 g. A medium-large, streak-backed cisticola (streaking reduced in coastal E Africa) with fairly long graduated tail.... read more


    Male song, from elevated perch, throughout year but more so in breeding season, a loud series of 1... read more


    Bush clumps in savanna, dry woodland and semi-arid shrublands; also old cultivated lands,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet insects and small invertebrates, including beetles and weevils (Coleoptera), termite alates (Isoptera), grasshoppers and crickets (... read more


    Nesting in Mar–Dec N of equator and Sept–Mar in S. Usually breeds in pairs, but group-breeding in some areas. Territorial in... read more


    Resident. In Kenya, dispersing males move only 1–2 territories away.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant in most of range. Occurs at densities of 1·6–3·6 birds/ha in acacia (Acacia) savanna but only 0... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. & Dean, R. (2019). Rattling Cisticola (Cisticola chiniana). 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 26 August 2019).