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Grey-backed Cisticola - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Red-headed Cisticola

Photo by safariranger
North Western Cape, South Africa, December 2006
Cisticola subruficapilla


13-14 cm

  • Dullish dark rufous crown
  • Reddish head
  • Rufous panel in the folded wing
  • Grey short straight bill
  • Pinkish brown feet and legs
  • Light brown eye.
Photo by Charlie Moores
R355 road between Karooport and Calvinia, Cape Province, South Africa

The southern form, (southern Namibia and South Africa):

  • Grey back streaked black
  • White underparts

The northern subspecies:

  • Brown back streaked black
  • Buff underparts.

Sexes similar, but juveniles are duller with a yellow face


Angola, Namibia and western South Africa. Associated with lowland fynbos, karoo scrub, and arid hillsides - typically in drier habitats than the closely related Wailing Cisticola.


Cisticola subruficapilla has six subspecies:[1][2]

  • C. s. newtoni
  • C. s. windhoekensis
  • C. s. karasensis
  • C. s. namaqua
  • C. s. subruficapilla
  • Southern Western Cape Province
  • C. s. jamesi


Shrublands in fynbos, renosterveld and Karoo; drainage lines with large tufts of Bamboo Grass; grassy patches on rocky hills in the Karoo; also shrubby and grassy areas on estuarine flats.



Forages low down in vegetation and on bare ground. Eats insects; termites, beetles, beetle larvae, caterpillars and small grasshoppers.


Solitary nester building ball-shaped nests with side entrance out of dry grass and shreds of bark, hairy flower stalks, cobwebs and grass leaves. The clutch of 2 - 5 eggs being laid mainly between August and December.


The call is a soft prrrrt followed by a sharp wheee phweee.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9., with updates to August 2014. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  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
  3. Wikipedia

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