The Cisticolidae family of small passerine birds is a group of about 160 warblers found mainly in warmer southern regions of the Old World. They were formerly included within the Old World warbler family Sylviidae.

Bright-headed cisticola (Cisticola exilis)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Sylvioidea
Family: Cisticolidae
Sundevall, 1872

Many: see text

This family probably originated in Africa, which has the majority of species, but there are representatives of the family across tropical Asia into Australasia, and one species, the zitting cisticola, even breeds in Europe.

These are generally very small birds of drab brown or grey appearance found in open country such as grassland or scrub. They are often difficult to see and many species are similar in appearance, so the song is often the best identification guide. These are insectivorous birds which nest low in vegetation.


The family was introduced (as Cisticolinae) by the Swedish zoologist Carl Jakob Sundevall in 1872.[1][2]

Some taxonomists place the red-winged warbler and the red-fronted warbler in the genus Prinia rather than in their own monotypic genera.[3][4] Support for their placement in Prinia is provided by a molecular phylogentic study of the Cisticolidae published in 2013 that found that both species were closely related to the prinias.[5]

List of genera

The family contains 160 species divided into 28 genera:[6] For more detail, see List of Cisticolidae species.

  • Neomixis, jeries (3 species) (genus is basal to all other Cisticolidae)[7]
  • Cisticola, cisticolas (51 species)
  • Incanamonotypic, Socotra warbler (Incana incanus)
  • Prinia, prinias (22 species)
  • Schistolais, (2 species)
  • Phragmacia – monotypic, Namaqua warbler (Phragmacia substriata)
  • Oreophilais – monotypic, Roberts's warbler (Oreophilais robertsi)
  • Heliolais – monotypic, red-winged warbler (Heliolais erythropterus) – sometimes placed in Prinia[3]
  • Micromacronus (2 species)
  • Urolais – monotypic, green longtail (Urolais epichlora)
  • Oreolais, (2 species) – moved here from Apalis[8]
  • Drymocichla – monotypic, red-winged grey warbler (Drymocichla incana)
  • Spiloptila – monotypic, cricket warbler (Spiloptila clamans)
  • Phyllolais – monotypic, buff-bellied warbler (Phyllolais pulchella)
  • Apalis, apalises (24 species)
  • Urorhipis – monotypic, red-fronted warbler (Urorhipis rufifrons) – sometimes placed in Prinia[4]
  • Malcorus – monotypic, rufous-eared warbler (Malcorus pectoralis)
  • Hypergerus – monotypic, oriole warbler (Hypergerus atriceps)
  • Eminia – monotypic, grey-capped warbler (Eminia lepida)
  • Camaroptera, (5 species)
  • Calamonastes, (4 species)
  • Euryptila – monotypic, cinnamon-breasted warbler (Euryptila subcinnamomea)
  • Bathmocercus, rufous warblers (2 species)
  • Scepomycter (2 species) - sometimes merged into Bathmocercus
  • Orthotomus, tailorbirds (13 species)
  • Artisornis, (2 species)
  • Poliolais – monotypic, white-tailed warbler (Poliolais lopezi)
  • Eremomela, (11 species)[9]


  1. Sundevall, Carl Jakob (1872). Methodi naturalis avium disponendarum tentamen. Försök till fogelklassens naturenliga uppställnung (in Latin and Swedish). Stockholm: Samson & Wallin. p. 6.
  2. Bock, Walter J. (1994). History and Nomenclature of Avian Family-Group Names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. Number 222. New York: American Museum of Natural History. pp. 152, 261.
  3. Ryan, P.; Dean, R. (2017). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Red-winged Prinia (Prinia erythroptera)". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  4. Ryan, P.; Dean, R. (2017). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Red-fronted Prinia (Prinia rufifrons)". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  5. Olsson, U.; Irestedt, M.; Sangster, G.; Ericson, P.G.P.; Alström, P. (2013). "Systematic revision of the avian family Cisticolidae based on a multi-locus phylogeny of all genera". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 66 (3). doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.11.004.
  6. Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Grassbirds, Donacobius, Malagasy warblers, cisticolas & allies". World Bird List Version 7.3. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  7. Nguembock, B.; Fjeldså, J.; Tillier, A.; Pasquet, E. (2007). "A phylogeny for the Cisticolidae (Aves: Passeriformes) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequence data, and a re-interpretation of an unique nest-building specialization". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 42 (1): 272–286. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.07.008.
  8. Nguembock, B.; Fjeldså, J.; Couloux, A.; Cruaud, C.; Pasquet, E. (2008). "Polyphyly of the genus Apalis and a new generic name for the species pulchra and ruwenzorii". Ibis. 150 (4): 756–765. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2008.00852.x.
  9. Johansson et al.: Phylogenetic relationships within Passerida (Aves: Passeriformes): A review and a new molecular phylogeny based on three nuclear intron markers In: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Volume 48, Issue 3, September 2008, Pages 858-876 doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.05.029 PMID 18619860

Further reading

  • Alström, P., ; Ericson, P.G.P.; Olsson, U.; Sundberg, P. (2006): Phylogeny and classification of the avian superfamily Sylvioidea. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38: 381-397.
  • Cibois, A., Slikas, B., Schulenberg, T. S., & Pasquet, E. (2001). An endemic radiation of Malagasy songbirds is revealed by mitochondrial DNA sequence data. Evolution 55 (6): 1198-1206. DOI:10.1554/0014-3820(2001)055[1198:AEROMS]2.0.CO;2 PDF fulltext
  • Ryan, Peter (2006). Family Cisticolidae (Cisticolas and allies). Pp. 378–492 in del Hoyo J., Elliott A. & Christie D.A. (2006) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 11. Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers Lynx Edicions, Barcelona ISBN 978-84-96553-06-4
  • Urban, E.K.; Fry, C.H. & Keith, S. (1997) The Birds of Africa, vol. 5. Academic Press, London. ISBN 0-12-137305-3
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