• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Zitting Cisticola - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Fan-tailed Warbler, Fan-tailed Cisticola, Streaked Fantail Warbler, Streaked Fan-tailed Warbler

Disambiguation: For the American species Euthlypis lachrymosa, see Fan-tailed Warbler

Nominate subspecies
Photo by Momo
Gialova Lagoon, Peloponnese, Greece, September 2006
Cisticola juncidis


Length 10-11cm (4-4¼ in), weight (male) 7-12 g (female) 5-8 g

  • Sandy-brown above, heavily streaked with black on the mantle and crown
  • White to buffy underparts
  • Short, broad, white-tipped tail
  • Bill pale yellow-buff, except for breeding male, which has a black bill

Similar species

Many other cisticola species, especially in Africa. Golden-headed Cisticola in South East Asia / Australia (which see).


Southern Europe, Africa, southern Asia and northern Australia.


C. j. malaya
Photo by kctsang
Singapore, 29 April 2006

This genus, along with various other mainly subtropical and tropical warbler genera, is now treated in the family Cisticolidae.


There are 17 subspecies[1], divided into four broad regional groups:
Mediterranean group

  • C. j. cisticola:
  • C. j. juncidis:
  • C. j. neuroticus:

Tropical African group

  • C. j. uropygialis:
C. j. tinnabulans
Photo by M Kwan
Long Valley, Hong Kong, 15 December 2007
  • C. j. terrestris:

South Asian group

  • C. j. cursitans:
  • C. j. salimalii:
  • South-western India (Kerala)
  • C. j. omalurus:
  • C. j. malaya:
  • C. j. brunniceps:
  • C. j. tinnabulans:
  • C. j. nigrostriatus:
  • C. j. fuscicapilla:

Australasian group

C. j. cursitans breeding plumage
Photo by Alok Tewari
Dist. Gurgaon, Haryana, India, 13 August 2015
  • C. j. constans:
  • Sulawesi, Togian Island, Muna Island, Tukangbesi Island and Peleng Island
  • C. j. normani:
  • C. j. leanyeri:
  • Disjunct in coastal northern Australia to western Gulf of Carpenteria
  • C. j. laveryi:
  • Coastal north-eastern Queensland (Cape York Peninsula south to Keppel Island)

An 18th subspecies formerly accepted as C. j. perrenius is now treated as a synonym of C. j. uropygialis. The tropical African subspecies group at least has been suggested as a potential future split. Further studies may suggest additional splitting of this very wide-ranging and variable species.


Open land with shrub, damp scrubby grassland, reeds, cane fields, thick brush, mangroves. Grassy coastal plains, saltmarsh etc.


A small warbler often seen only as a fleeting glimpse as it is a very active little bird. Some subspecies appear to be shyer than others.


Their diet consists almost entirely of insects and small invertebrates, including grasshoppers, dragonflies, moths, caterpillars and insect larvae etc. They mostly forage around the base of grass clumps, but occasionally they hawk for flying insects.


The female builds a cup shaped nest deep in grasses, from living leaves, plant-down, cobwebs, and grass, with a canopy of tied-together leaves or grasses overhead for camouflage. Three to six eggs are laid.

C. j. salimalii
Photo by S K Gudi
Hubli, India, 25 August 2016


The male has a most distinctive song-flight. It flies in circles about 20 ft above the ground, undulating considerably. At the top of each arc it gives a series of 'zit' notes, in some subspecies a series of double 'zit-zit' notes.

Recording by Alok Tewari
Sultanpur, Gurgaon, Haryana, India, July-2016
Adult, Ssp. cursitans, calling from an acacia shrub


Subspecies C. j. leanyeri
Photo by Mat & Cathy
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia, March 2006
  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  3. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  4. Birdforum Member observations

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1