Family Cisticolas and allies (Cisticolidae)

Least Concern

Red-pate Cisticola (Cisticola ruficeps)


French: Cisticole à tête rousse German: Rotkopf-Zistensänger Spanish: Cistícola cabecirrojo

Malurus ruficeps


, 1830,

Kordofan, Sudan


Formerly treated as conspecific with C. guinea, but differs in vocalizations, plumage (especially non-breeding) and habitat preferences. When the form now known as C. guinea was initially split from present species, confusion regarding its identity led to its being associated with race mongalla, with the result that the newly split species was mistakenly named “C. mongalla”. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. r. ruficeps (Cretzschmar, 1830) – NE Nigeria, N Cameroon, Chad and SW & SC Sudan.
  • C. r. scotopterus (Sundevall, 1850) – SE Sudan and NW Eritrea.
  • C. r. mongalla Lynes, 1930 – South Sudan and N Uganda.
  • Descriptive notes

    11–12 cm; 8–13 g. A small cisticola with rufous crown and medium-long graduated tail; upperparts plain in breeding plumage, heavily streaked in non-breeding... read more


    Male song a short, high-pitched, liquid phrase lasting 0·5–0·9 seconds, “twee-twiddle-ee” or... read more


    Confined to Sudan-Guinea savanna biome; occurs in dry savannas, rank grassland on plains and lower... read more

    Food and feeding

    Poorly known. Diet appears to consist mainly of insects, including caterpillars (Lepidoptera).


    Nesting Aug–Sept. Probably monogamous; solitary, territorial. Male sings from perch on top of tall tree. Nest ball-shaped, with side... read more


    Little known; presumably mostly resident.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common.

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. (2020). Red-pate Cisticola (Cisticola ruficeps). 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 28 February 2020).