Cisticolas (pronounced sis-TIC-olas) are a genus of very small insectivorous birds formerly classified in the Old World warbler family Sylviidae, but now usually considered to be in the separate family Cisticolidae, along with other southern warbler genera. They are believed to be quite closely related to the swallows and martins, the bulbuls and the white-eyes. The genus contains about 45 species, of which only two are not found in Africa: one in Madagascar and the other from Asia to Australasia.
Their generic name, Cisticola, means inhabitant (-cola) of a woven basket (cista-), referring to the finely woven nest of the Zitting Cisticola, the most widespread species. They are also sometimes called fantail-warblers due to their habit of conspicuously flicking their tails, or tailor-birds because of their nests.
Cisticolas are widespread through the Old World's tropical and sub-tropical regions. Africa, which is home to almost all species, is the most likely ancestral home of the group. Cisticolas are usually non-migratory with most species attached to and often distinguishable by their habitats.
A variety of open habitats are occupied. These include wetlands, moist or drier grasslands, open or rocky mountain slopes, and human-modified habitats such as road verges, cultivation, weedy areas or pasture. The species preferring wetlands can be found at the edges of mangrove, or in papyrus, common reed, or typha swamps. Cisticolas are generally quite common within what remains of their preferred habitats.
The Zitting Cisticola or Streaked Fantail Warbler (Cisticola juncidis), is widely distributed Old World warbler whose breeding range includes southern Europe, Africa (outside the deserts and rainforest), and southern Asia down to northern Australia. A small bird found mainly in grasslands, it is best identified by its rufous rump, lacks any gold on the collar and the brownish tail is tipped with white. During the breeding season, males have a zigzagging flight display accompanied by regular "zitting" calls that has been likened to repeated snips of a scissor. They build their pouch nest suspended within a clump of grass.