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Croaking Cisticola - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Alan Manson
Umkomaas Valley, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, December 2007
Cisticola natalensis


Photo © by volker sthamer
Pian Upe, Uganda, 16 January 2020

Length 15 cm. Heavy for a Cisticola; males 25 g, females 18 g
The crown and back are buffy brown with dark streaks and the flight feathers are brown, fringed rufous. The underparts are pale buff, and the legs and feet are pinkish brown. The dark bill is heavy and the eyes are brown.

The call, heavy build and large bill are useful diagnostic features.


Sub-Saharan Africa. Generally resident; some populations move seasonally.


There are seven[1] to nine [2]subspecies, based on variation in the colouration and streaking of the upperparts, but most are poorly differentiated.

  • C. n. strangei:
  • C. n. tonga:
  • Sudan (White Nile and Blue Nile regions)
  • C. n. inexpectatus:
  • C. n. argenteus:
  • Southern Ethiopia and south-eastern Somalia to northern Kenya
  • C. n. natalensis:
  • C. n. holubii:
  • Extreme northern Botswana, extreme western Zimbabwe and adjacent southern Zambia
  • C. n. katanga:


Open grassland and savanna; prefers rank vegetation.


Usually solitary. Inconspicuous and shy, except when calling (often from a prominent perch) in the breeding season.


Forages low in vegetation or on the ground, mainly for invertebrates, but also for seeds.


The call is distinctive; a loud croak "q-RRRRP" which is about 1 second long, repeated every 2 seconds.


  1. Clements, JF. 2011. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to August 2011. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/downloadable-clements-checklist
  2. Hockey, PAR, WRJ Dean, and PG Ryan, eds. 2005. Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. 7th ed. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. ISBN 978-0620340533

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