Bird Photography Challenge #56: Golden-headed Cisticola

A diminutive little bird attracted my attention recently at the wetlands among some reeds.  I could hear it before I actually saw it.  It was a new find for me: a Golden-headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilis).  This little warbler is the star of our #56 Bird Photography Challenge.

What does it look like?

9G5A1877The Golden-headed Cisticola is a tiny bird of only about 10 cm in length. It often remains hidden among tall grasses, but as was the case when I took the photographs, you are alerted to its presence by buzzing and whistling calls.

In breeding season, the male has a golden-orange head, which is crested when calling, with a paler chin and throat, and a boldly streaked black to dark grey and golden body. The tail is black, with paler tips. Females resemble non-breeding males, with buff-brown upper parts, heavily streaked black and dark brown, with a golden-buff rump and back of neck. The underparts are cream with buff tints, the wings are black, with each feather edged buff.

How does it behave?

9G5A2171The Cisticola mainly feeds on insects it takes from the ground among tall grasses but also from the seeds of the grasses among which it lives.

During the breeding season these tiny birds can sometimes be seen performing display flights, high above the grassland, consisting of a jerking, bouncy flight accompanied by a wheezing song, before diving back down into the long grass. Both the male and female are involved in nest building, but the female incubates the eggs on her own.

Did you know?

The Cisticola is known as the finest tailor of the birds.  It builds a rounded nest with a side entrance near the top, from fine grasses, plant down and stolen spiders’ web. Leaves are usually stitched to the outer surface.  This explains their common name: the tailorbird!

Where is it found?

The Golden-headed Cisticola is found from the northwest coast of Australia all the way around the east coast and southern coast to Adelaide.  It is also found in China and India.  It lives near coastal areas, swamp margins and wetlands.  It likes tangled vegetation close to the ground.

The images in the gallery were taken at the Lake Borrie Wetlands, using a Canon 7Dii camera, an EF100-400 mm lens and 1.4 extender, hand held. Click on any image in the gallery to display in full screen.

24 thoughts on “Bird Photography Challenge #56: Golden-headed Cisticola

  1. Fantastic photos Chris! We saw this little beauty two nights ago in a paddock at Manbulloo Station, Katherine, Northern Teritory. My only previous sighting was near Marine Stadium anchorage (otherwise known as Bums Bay) on the Gold Coast, QLD in 2015. Cheers Trish

    • Hi Trish, I had seen them before but never realised what they were until this time. They are gorgeous. Love when they balance between two reeds!

  2. What a gorgeous little bird! I love his colours, would love to hear the songs and see a tailor-made nest. ❤️☺️

  3. Lovely shots, and cute little fellows. Do they have similar habitats to the Silvereyes ? I used to watch them in Tassy as a lad, and in later years along Newlands Arm. Doug

    • Hi Doug, the Silvereyes are found in more wooded areas, whereas the Cisticolas are in reeds and grasses. But both are among the smallest of birds, so a challenge to photograph!

  4. Outstanding post… This is such a tiny bird… I have been thinking about doing this kind of post about the birds I encounter… You inspire me.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Maggie. Doing the research about the birds I feature is fascinating and when I have collected enough good images for a particular specie I prepare a post. I run this every second Thursday, to keep myself motivated and followers interested. It is great fun and you learn a lot in the process. Go for it!

  5. Oh these are wonderful Chris 😀 It’s very like some of our warblers who love the wetland areas! I really must put together a post on the Chiffchaff which has been doing really well in numbers this year. It strikes a very similar pose to your little cisticola 🙂

    • Hi Sarah – the cisticola had really funny poses, balancing spread eagle between reeds! Looking forward to seeing your Chiffchaff – what a funny name! 😍

      • Oh all our warblers do stuff like that! It’s hilarious and cute 🙂 The Chiffchaff is named for it’s call! It’s one of the best ways to tell it apart from the willow warbler that it looks a lot like. I always hear the birds I’m looking for before I see them! Very thankful that my hearing is still good enough in the high ranges.

    • Hi Sue, I had seen it a few times but was not sure what it was, till I managed to get these shits and do the research! Love their behaviour among the grasses.

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