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Wing-snapping Cisticola - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Alan Manson
Photo taken: Hlokozi (near Highflats), KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Alternative name: Ayres's Cisticola

Cisticola ayresii


Length 9-10 cm, mass 10 g. Sexes are similar. The tail is very short, 24-28 mm when breeding, and 33-35 mm when not breeding. The crown and upper parts are rusty brown with both dark and pale streaks. The wing and tail feathers are blackish brown with buff edges. Underparts are pale buff, being darker on the flanks.

Similar species: Although the Cloud Cisticola has longer legs and is more heavily built, separation of the two species in the field is only safely done by their calls. The Pale-crowned Cisticola has a plain, pale crown when breeding, and also has a different call.

The call of the Wing-snapping Cisticola is a slow phrase (much slower than that of the Cloud Cisticola) of three to seven notes repeated continuously in high cruising flight. This is interspersed with dives accompanied by a loud, rapid tiktiktiktik, sometimes with wingsnaps.


Patchy distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Six subspecies are recognized, based on small differences in plumage colour. The southern race C. a. ayresii extends from eastern South Africa to Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and south-western Tanzania. Other subspecies are C. a. gabun (Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo), C. a. imatong (Sudan), C. a. entebbe (Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania), C. a. itombwensis (Democratic Republic of Congo), and C. a. mauensis (Kenya).


Short grasslands with some bare patches between tufts of grass. The Cloud Cisticola uses similar habitat, but in southern Africa it is more common at higher altitude, and in grassland with more bare patches.


A locally common resident that moves locally in response to changes in grassland structure due to grazing and burning. Found singly or in pairs. Forages on or near the ground, mainly for insects, but also for seeds.


Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ & Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Robert's Birds of Southern Africa, 7th edition. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. ISBN 0620340533

Lepage D. 2007. Avibase. Search for Cisticola ayresii downloaded 18 September 2007.

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