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Cisticola aridulus (Desert cisticola) 

[= Cisticola aridula

Woestynklopkloppie [Afrikaans]; Motintinyane (generic term for cisticolas and prinias) [South Sotho]; Kadhi-idhi-i, Timba (generic names for cisticola) [Shona]; Matinti (generic term for cisticola) [Tsonga]; Kalahari-graszanger [Dutch]; Cisticole du désert [French]; Kalahari-zistensänger [German]; Fuinha-do-deserto [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 aridulus (Desert cisticola)   

Desert cisticola, Etosha National Park, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]


Distribution and habitat

It occurs in patches along the Sahel semi-desert, extending south to Ethiopia and Tanzania, with a separate population from Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it is locally common across much of the region, preferring desert grassland, especially with Stipagrostis grass. It may also occupy other types of dry grassland, sometimes with scattered trees and bushes.

Distribution of Desert 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.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of the Black-footed cat (Felis nigripes)


It eats small invertebrates, such as spiders, grasshoppers (Orthoptera) and beetles. It does most of its foraging low down in grassland, gleaning prey from the grass and bare soil.


  • The nest is pear-shaped, with a large base and an entrance towards the side of the smaller roof. It is usually built of dry grass reinforced and attached with spider web to a grass tuft, typically less than half a metre above ground.
  • Egg-laying season is from about October-April, peaking from December-March.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are probably incubated solely by the female in about 14 days.
  • The chicks stay in the nest for about 13-18 days, producing a sharp hissing noise if touched.


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.