|Rattling Cisticola, near Arusha, March 2011. Something of a birder's bird?|
First the identification. Let's be honest, Cisticolas can be something of a challenge to identify! It doesn't help that there are seven pages of nearly identical looking small, streaky brown birds in the fieldguide! Happily, there are better ways to identify Cisticolas than their looks - the key is always to listen. Most Cisticolas, and rattling is no exception, have fairly distinctive calls and once you know it their 'tee, tee, churrurrurr' call is a constant sound in the bush (click the link to find a recording on xeno-canto), especially during the rains when they breed. In the unlucky event that none are making any noises, you can usually be fairly confident in your identification of any moderately sized, streaky cisticola present in the drier bush regions as rattling simply because they're so common! They are surprisingly variable in size (sometimes appearing really rather small) and colour (from very grey to warmer brown - but never with bright chestnut on the wing or head) though, so don't be too taken in my any one feature if they're not calling.