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Species Guide
A photo of a Levaillant's Cisticola (Cisticola tinniens)
Levaillant's Cisticola

Levaillant's Cisticola

Cisticola tinniens

In the upland marshes of Africa, one may encounter the Levaillant's cisticola, or tinkling cisticola, a small passerine bird measuring 12–15 cm in length. It boasts a rather unassuming plumage, with a longish tail and a distinctive reddish cap. During the breeding season, adults display grey upperparts with pronounced black streaks and a rufous wing panel. The face and underparts are a buffy white, while the tail takes on a russet brown hue. The bird's bill is a blackish-brown with a pinkish base, and its feet and legs share a similar pinkish-brown coloration. The light brown eye completes the subtle yet charming appearance of this bird. Outside of the breeding season, adults wear a browner back, and juveniles can be identified by their yellower underparts.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify Levaillant's cisticola, look for the reddish cap and listen for its distinctive calls. The breeding adult's grey and black streaked back with a rufous wing panel is a key feature, as is the buffy white face and underparts. The russet brown tail is also a helpful identifier. In non-breeding plumage, the bird appears more brown-backed, and juveniles are marked by yellower underparts.


This species thrives in wet environments, favoring reedbeds, sedges, and rank grasses typically found near rivers or dams.


Levaillant's cisticola is a resident breeder, with its range extending from Kenya through to eastern South Africa.


Often seen in pairs, alone, or in small family groups, Levaillant's cisticola is an active forager, darting through grasses in search of small insects. It is both vocal and conspicuous, frequently perching atop tall grass stems and reeds to issue its alarm call.


The breeding season sees this cisticola constructing a ball-shaped nest with a side entrance, ingeniously crafted from dry grass, cobwebs, and felted plant down. The nest is typically situated in grass or weeds, either standing in or overhanging water, with nesting activity peaking from August to October.

Conservation status

Levaillant's cisticola is classified as Least Concern due to its extensive range, estimated at 1,400,000 km², and its large, stable population size. There is no evidence to suggest significant population declines that would warrant concern under the IUCN Red List criteria.

Levaillant's Cisticola Sounds

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