Golden Headed Cisticola and Chats

Subject: Golden Headed Cisticola and Chats
From: Peter Woodall <>
Date: Fri, 03 Oct 2003 14:04:17 +1000
Dear Peter

I've been lucky enough to see a number of species of Cisticola in Africa
and elsewhere. At home I have a monograph on the Cisticolas written
by Admiral Lynes and published in the IBIS in the 1930's, with some
wonderful colour plates as a supplement.  I believe that he sorted out many
species that had been previously confused because of differences in breeding
and non-breeding plumage, etc.
.... but I certainly wouldn't call myself an expert on the group.

I really don't see them as being anything like chats, either the "Australian" chats
(now placed with the honeyeaters in the family Meliphagidae) or the Old World chats
(family Turdidae with the thrushes, etc).

To me they are clearly a group of warblers which have originated in Africa and have radiated there:
into large species in the swamps;  tiny ones as "cloud-scrapers"; and many in between.
Only a few species are found out of Africa, but there are over 70 species in Africa.
They all have a mottled brown/buff plumage and are traditionally in one genus Cisticola
in the warbler family Sylviidae (which was previously placed with the flycatchers (Muscicapidae)).

Whether you leave them as a distinctive genus in the warbler family, or make them a sub-family, or indeed
a family of their own seems largely a subjective matter.  I don't think there are any definite rules in this
higher order classification.  It depends on whether you want to emphasize differences (a splitter) or
similarities (a lumper).

I don't think that I have ever seen one actually on the ground so I can't say whether they hop or run.  I have seen
their tongues and as far as I remember they are simple - not brush-tipped as in the honeyeaters and Australian chats.



At 01:03 PM 3/10/2003 +1000, you wrote:

HI All,

I recently saw a fantastic close up, portrait shot of a golden headed cisticola.  It's  features looked strikingly similar to those of the Chat family.

I've been reading that there has been discussions to include cisticola's  in there own family, Cisticolidae, with the other african warblers. However, the golden headed cisticola is the only subspecies that doesn't occur in Africa.  

Can anyone comment on the classifying characterics of the golden headed cisticola ?

Like chats, do golden headed cisticola's 'run' along the ground rather than 'hop', if they are ever in open spaces? What type of tongue do they have?


Birding-Aus is on the Web at To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message "unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line) to
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU