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Wailing Cisticola - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Alan Manson
Cedara Farm, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, November 2007
Cisticola lais

Inlcudes: Lynes's Cisticola


Length 13-14 cm, mass about 15 g
A grassland Cisticola with a long tail and streaked back.
Breeding adult (nominate race): The crown is rufous, streaked dark brown, and the mantle, back and rump are grey streaked blackish brown. The tail is tawny with a darker subterminal band and pale tip. The flight feathers are brown with russet edges which result in a russet bar on the closed wing. The underparts are buff, being darker on the breast and flanks.
The bill is horn, the eyes brown and the legs and feet pinkish.


From Kenya west to Angola and south to eastern South Africa. A locally common resident.


Cisticola lais has seven subspecies; the colour of the streaking on the upperparts varies and some populations are spotted below.[1][2]

  • C. l. namba
  • C. l. distinctus
  • Highlands of eastern Uganda and central Kenya - sometimes split as full species, Lynes's Cisticola
  • C. l. semifasciatus
  • C. l. mashona
  • Limpopo Province to the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe south of the Chimanimani Mountains
  • C. l. oreobates
  • C. l. monticola
  • C. l. lais
  • C. l. maculatus
  • Between George and Port Elizabeth on the southern South Africanorthern coast
  • The back is paler and greyer than that of the nominate, the breast is spotted, and the flanks streaked.


Grassland with bracken and shrubs.


Singly, in pairs, or in small family groups. Often perches on the top of shrubs or bracken, but forages low down in vegetation for insects.


  1. Clements, JF. 2008. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2008. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist.
  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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