Great Birding Moments # 18 Golden Headed Cisticola

Golden Headed Cisticola

Golden Headed Cisticola

Last Thursday we visited the Tolderol Game Reserve near Langhorne Creek, South Australia. It had been quite a time since my last visit and I was anticipating plenty of ducks, waders and other water birds to be present.

A Disappointing Day
It was a disappointing day. All the ponds were dry due mainly to the severe drought we are experiencing at present. It has been the driest winter, spring and October on record in this part of the state. The channels between the ponds contained some water but overall the birding was very disappointing. There were a few Black Swans, Whiskered Terns, Swamp Harriers, Masked Lapwings and White Fronted Chats. I saw a solitary Caspian Tern, several Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants and no Silver Gulls. Several White Ibis flew overhead as did a small flock of Straw Necked Ibis. A group of three Purple Swamphens skulked near one of the channels.

Feeling Despondent
As we were leaving I was feeling rather despondent. So few birds and nothing really special. I was wrong. A male Golden Headed Cisticola in breeding plumage emerged from the low scrubby bushes next to the rough track our vehicle was travelling on. He proceeded to sit out in the open and sing at volume, perched in a variety of poses for a good two to three minutes while I took a series of photos.

Range of the Golden Headed Cisticola
The Golden Headed Cisticola is not a species I have seen very often so this was an extra delight. The species is found throughout India, Nepal, SE Asia, Indonesia, Philippines and China. In Australia it is found in the northern, eastern and south eastern parts of the land, usually no more than 300km from the coast and only where suitable habitat exists.

Preferred Habitat

The Golden Headed Cisticola inhabits areas of tall grass, rushes, shrubby areas near wetlands, drains, sewage plants, irrigated paddocks and river flats. The Tolderol Game Reserve is part of the Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert regions near the mouth of the Murray River. This area is probably its stronghold in this part of the state.

So the birding overall may not have been great, but the day ended on a happy note.

Golden Headed Cisticola

Golden Headed Cisticola


9 Responses to “Great Birding Moments # 18 Golden Headed Cisticola”

  1. Snail says:

    I knew they were small but that fella is tiny. He also seems to be sporting a bit of a punk hairdo!

  2. Trevor says:

    Yes they are rather small. My field guide says 9-11cm which is about the size of a Silvereye. House Sparrows are 14-16cm.

    This individual was photographed from the car at about 15 metres with the full 12X zoom in action. Then a little digital zooming on the computer and he still looks small.

    You gotta love his hairdo!

  3. Bev Coppack says:

    Great litle bird, I first saw it on my walk in Cairns on 28th but only today did I get a better look at it. I am in Cairns

  4. Trevor says:

    Hi there Bev. This is a special kind of bird in my experience as I have only seen it a few occasions. Very special.

  5. Bev Coppack says:

    Trevor – would you believe I saw another new bird in my birding day today. This morning on my usual walk round my Cairns suburb I came across the chestnut breasted manakin . I was able to use your wonderful photogrhs to confirm my idenitfication from a bird book. This bird was in the company of the little cisticola I identified the day before, they were in the same spot i.e. a field of Guinea grass.

  6. Trevor says:

    Well done Bev. It is always exciting to see a new bird for the first time. Imagine then my excitement at seeing 19 new birds for the first time in the space of just 30 minutes. It was on a canoe trip in Chitwan National Park in Nepal last January. Read about it here:

  7. jussi says:

    In the Goulburn Valley of Victoria, not far from the riverina…where irrigation channels and roadside cumbingi swamp dominates the landscape, the Golden Headed Cisticola is extremely common throughout the summer months.

    They sound like a wheezy childrens toy complimented by two water drops!

    Also present is the Little Grassbird…a treat for those who are patient.

  8. Trevor says:

    You are lucky to have this endearing bird so common in your area. I love hearing the Little Grassbird too – if only they weren’t so shy I’d get a photo. Perhaps I need to take your advice and be more patient.

  9. […] Great Birding Moments # 18 Golden Headed Cisticola […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *