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Croaking Cisticola - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies natalensis.
Photo by Alan Manson
Umkomaas Valley, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, December 2007
Cisticola natalensis
Subspecies strangei.
Photo © by THE_FERN. Masai Mara, Kenya, November 2021


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.

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


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


Variation in the colouration and streaking of the upperparts defines the different subspecies, but most are poorly differentiated. Authors recognise up to 9 races [2].

Clements recognises the following subspecies [1]:

The IOC further recognises subspecies [3]:

  • C. n. huambo: western and central Angola


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
  3. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v 13.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.13.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/

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