The rattling cisticola (Cisticola chiniana) is a species of bird in the family Cisticolidae which is native to Africa south of the equator, and parts of East Africa. It is a common to abundant species in open savanna and scrubland habitats, whether in arid, moist or upland regions. Especially during summer, it is highly conspicuous due to its strident and repetitive call-notes from prominent perches.
It is found in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Republic of the Congo, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Its natural habitat is arid, mesic or moist savannas and woodland, often dominated by thorn trees or thorn shrub (Dichrostachys, etc.). It is however also commonly found in miombo and mopane woodland, and is one of the commonest bird species on the Mozambican coastal plain. It is also present in the Eastern Highlands and the East African uplands below 2,000 m. In addition it utilizes some ecotones including edges of cultivation, fringes of dense woodland and woodland fringing the Okavango delta.
Tinkling cisticola replaces it in stunted broad-leaved woodland and dry deciduous woodland on sandy substrates, while various Cisticola species replace it in marshy situations. It co-occurs with various Prinia species.
Especially in summer, much time is spent calling prominently from the top of a tree or bush. The strident call can be rendered as "chee-chee chichi-chirrrrr", but varies somewhat from individual to individual.
Breeding occurs during the wet season in spring and summer. They build a ball-shaped nest of very coarse grass blades, which is lined on the inside with fine plant material.
Some seventeen subspecies are accepted:C. c. simplex (Heuglin, 1869)
Range: South Sudan and DRC to Uganda
C. c. fortis Lynes, 1930
Range: Gabon, the Congos and Angola to Zambia
C. c. fricki Mearns, 1913
Range: Ethiopian and northern Kenyan highlands
C. c. humilis Madarász, 1904
Range: eastern Ugandan and western Kenyan highlands
C. c. ukamba Lynes, 1930
Range: highlands of C Kenya and N Tanzania.
C. c. heterophrys Oberholser, 1906
Range: Kenyan and Tanzanian coastal plains
C. c. victoria Lynes, 1930
Range: eastern circumference of Lake Victoria
C. c. fischeri Reichenow, 1891
C. c. keithi Parkes, 1987
C. c. mbeya Parkes, 1987
C. c. emendatus Vincent, 1944
Range: southern Tanzania, Malawi and northern Mozambique
C. c. procerus W.K.H.Peters, 1868
Range: eastern Zambia to central Mozambique
C. c. bensoni Traylor, 1964
Range: southern Zambia
C. c. smithersi B.P.Hall, 1956
Range: upper Zambezi river region
C. c. chiniana (A.Smith, 1843)
Range: central plateau of southern Africa
C. c. frater Reichenow, 1916
C. c. campestris Gould, 1845
Range: eastern coastal plain of southern Africa