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. 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.

They are among the most difficult of all birds to identify. Songs are critical. I was totally dependent upon our guides for these identifications. For those planning a birding trip to east Africa, and desiring to identify these birds, I recommend getting the E Africa Birds app and learning the different songs.

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.

Because of their small size (about 10 cm) and brown plumage, they are more easily heard than seen.
The similar plumage of many species can make them hard to identify, particularly in winter when they seldom emerge from their grasses. Many African species, in particular, are difficult to distinguish other than by their calls. Thirteen species are named for their calls, from "Singing" and "Chirping" to "Bubbling" and "Siffling".

I never would have been able to identify any of these birds without the guides and I still don't know haw they do it.

Red-faced Cisticola, Cisticola erythrops
Singing Cisticola, Cisticola cantans
Whistling Cisticola, Cisticola lateralis
Chattering Cisticola, Cisticola anonymus
Trilling Cisticola, Cisticola woosnami
Bubbling Cisticola, Cisticola bulliens
Chubb's Cisticola, Cisticola chubbi
Hunter's Cisticola, Cisticola hunteri
Black-lored Cisticola, Cisticola nigriloris
Rock-loving Cisticola, Cisticola aberrans
Boran Cisticola, Cisticola bodessa
Rattling Cisticola, Cisticola chiniana
Ashy Cisticola, Cisticola cinereolus
Red-pate Cisticola, Cisticola ruficeps
Dorst's Cisticola, Cisticola guinea - formerly C. dorsti or included in C. ruficeps
Tinkling Cisticola, Cisticola rufilatus
Grey-backed Cisticola, Cisticola subruficapilla
Brown-backed Cisticola, Cisticola discolor[verification needed]
Wailing Cisticola, Cisticola lais
Tana River Cisticola, Cisticola restrictus
Churring Cisticola, Cisticola njombe
Winding Cisticola, Cisticola galactotes
Chirping Cisticola, Cisticola pipiens
Carruthers's Cisticola, Cisticola carruthersi
Levaillant's Cisticola, Cisticola tinniens
Stout Cisticola, Cisticola robustus
Croaking Cisticola, Cisticola natalensis
Neddicky, Cisticola fulvicapilla
Aberdare Cisticola, Cisticola aberdare
Long-tailed Cisticola, Cisticola angusticauda
Black-tailed Cisticola, Cisticola melanurus
Short-winged Cisticola, Cisticola brachypterus
Rufous Cisticola, Cisticola rufus
Foxy Cisticola, Cisticola troglodytes
Tiny Cisticola, Cisticola nana
Zitting Cisticola, Cisticola juncidis
Socotra Cisticola, Cisticola haesitatus
Madagascan Cisticola, Cisticola cherina
Desert Cisticola, Cisticola aridulus
Cloud Cisticola, Cisticola textrix
Black-backed Cisticola, Cisticola eximius
Dambo Cisticola, Cisticola dambo
Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Cisticola brunnescens
Pale-crowned Cisticola, Cisticola cinnamomeus
Wing-snapping Cisticola, Cisticola ayresii
Golden-headed Cisticola, Cisticola exilis