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Species Guide

Wing-snapping Cisticola

Cisticola ayresii

The Wing-snapping Cisticola, or Ayres' Cisticola, is a diminutive avian species belonging to the Cisticolidae family. These birds are characterized by their streaky, brown plumage and relatively short tails, although during non-breeding seasons, their tails lengthen somewhat. Named in honor of the South African ornithologist Thomas Ayres, they are a modestly adorned yet fascinating species to observe.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Wing-snapping Cisticola, look for a small, streaky brown bird with a short tail, which becomes longer in non-breeding plumage. Their most distinctive feature, however, is not visual but auditory. The Wing-snapping Cisticola is best distinguished by its unique vocalizations and the snapping sound produced by its wings during flight displays.


These birds are typically found in grasslands and marshes, where they can blend seamlessly with their surroundings. Their preference for such habitats makes them a common sight in these environments, particularly during their breeding displays.


The Wing-snapping Cisticola is distributed across central and southern Africa. It thrives in both subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland and subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, making it a species well-adapted to a variety of grassland ecosystems within this region.


The Wing-snapping Cisticola is most often observed during its breeding season when it performs a captivating flight display. This display is a combination of whistled notes that vary in pitch, either starting low and rising or maintaining an even keel, punctuated by the distinctive snapping sounds of its wings. These snaps sometimes continue as the bird makes a dive toward the ground, a behavior that is as dramatic as it is characteristic of the species.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the Wing-snapping Cisticola includes the aforementioned whistled notes that are part of its breeding display. These sounds, along with the snapping of its wings, form a unique acoustic signature that is essential for species identification.

Similar Species

In non-breeding plumage, the Wing-snapping Cisticola closely resembles other small, short-tailed cisticolas. However, its distinctive voice and wing-snapping behavior during flight displays are key differentiators that help birdwatchers and ornithologists distinguish it from its congeners.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List has classified the Wing-snapping Cisticola as Least Concern, indicating that, currently, there are no immediate threats to its population levels that would warrant a higher degree of conservation action. This status reflects the species' adaptability and relative abundance within its natural range.

Wing-snapping Cisticola Sounds

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