Cisticola subruficapilla (Grey-backed cisticola) 

Grysrugtinktinkie [Afrikaans]; Rotsgraszanger [Dutch]; Cisticole à dos gris [French]; Bergzistensänger [German]; Fuinha-de-dorso-cinzento [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Cisticolidae > Genus: Cisticola

Cisticola subruficapilla (Grey-backed cisticola)  Cisticola subruficapilla (Grey-backed cisticola) 

Grey-backed cisticola, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Grey-backed cisticola, Tanqua Karoo, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from South Africa through Namibia to extreme south-western Angola. It generally prefers fynbos, renosterveld and Karoo scrub, occasionally moving into thickets of alien plants, such as Jackson willow (Acacia saligna) and Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops).

Distribution of Grey-backed cisticola in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  



Recorded by Clem Hagner, Plettenberg Bay 1963, [© Transvaal Museum]

This call is made intermittently. Recorded by Clem Hagner, Plettenberg Bay 1963, [© Transvaal Museum]


It mainly eats insects, gleaning them from the undergrowth and bare soil. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • The nest is a ball shape with a side entrance, built of grass and bark shreds from Lammerlat (Asclepias buchenaviana), or alternatively using hairy flower stems with the attached seeds of Galium tomentosum (Old-man's beard creeper). During incubation a lining of soft plant down is added, often extracted from Karoo rosemaries (Eriocephalus). It is typically placed close to the ground in a shrub or grass tuft, the leaves of which are often incorporated into the nest.
  • Egg-laying season is from July-January, peaking from about August-October.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubate for about 12-14 days.
  • The chicks stay in the nest for about 11-16 days.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 




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