Levaillant's cisticola or tinkling cisticola, Cisticola tinniens, is a small, 12-15 cm long, dull-coloured bird with a longish tail and a reddish cap. The upperparts of the breeding adult are grey, heavily streaked with black, and with a rufous panel in the folded wing The supercilium, face and underparts are buffy white and the tail is russet brow. The short straight bill is blackish-brown with a pinkish base, and the feet and legs are pinkish-brown. The eye is light brown. Non-breeding adults are browner-backed, and juvenile birds have yellower underparts. Levaillant's cisticola is usually seen in pairs, singly, or in small family parties.

Habitat and Distribution

The cisticola is a resident breeder in eastern Africa from Kenya to eastern South Africa. It is common in reedbeds, sedges, rank grass, and similar wet habitats usually near rivers or dams.


Flitting through the grass as it forages for small insects.


The cisticola builds a ball-shaped nest with a side entrance from dry grass, cobwebs and felted plant down. It is usually placed in a tuft of grass or weeds, which are standing in, or hanging over water. Nesting occurs from August to October.

Calls and Songs

The calls include a musical chrip-trrrup-trreee, a wailing tee tee tee and harsh alarm notes. It is vocal and conspicuous, perching on the top of tall grass stems and reeds and making its alarm call.