Australian Bush Birds
Golden-headed Cisticola  -  Cisticola exilis
Golden-headed Cisticola. Black streaks on the head identify a female or non-breeding male. Both sexes have black streaked backs although breeding males have heavier streaking. (Casino, NSW)
Golden-headed Cisticola. Breeding males have a golden buff, unstreaked head which is crested while the bird is calling; the face is tawny-brown without streaks. Breeding birds have shorter tails than non-breeding ones (males and females). (Casino, NSW)
A breeding male Golden-headed Cisticola - Cisticola exilis - has a golden crown and nape. The back is tawny-rufous with heavy black streaks. Under parts are cream to golden buff, deeper in colour on the flanks; the under tail is darker, tipped cinnamon. In breeding birds the tail is shorter than non-breeding ones. Iris is pale brown, feet pink, bill is brown above, paler below.

Non-breeding male birds have a tawny crown and back streaked black, the tail is long with an off-white tip; under parts white with a rufous wash only on the flanks. Females are coloured as for non-breeding males with a short tail when breeding. Immature birds are coloured as females but duller overall, they have dark brown eyes. Reaches 11 centimetres long.

Golden-headed Cisticola - page 2
map map Golden-headed Cisticolas inhabit swampy grassland, usually around fresh water. Living and feeding on insects on the ground beneath grass, they are inconspicuous and rarely seen when not breeding. It does not migrate but concentrates on good foraging grounds. Flight is weak, fluttering and undulating, low over the grass.

Distributed along a broad coastal band from North-West Cape, WA, through the Kimberley, NT, eastern states to the mouth of the Murray River. Also on King Island in Bass Strait.

Breeds from September to March. As breeding time approaches males begin song-flights to establish territory and fly out from exposed perches undulating around at 10 to 20 metres above their ground, singing there and from perches until returning to cover. Displays continue irregularly through the day.

Male and female work together to make the nest which is a rounded dome with a side entrance near the top built in grass tussocks, shrubs, swamp vegetation or rushes, near the ground. Growing leaves are often stitched into the outer wall; the male passes a thread of coarse spider web and fibrous material to the female working inside the nest as they stitch live leaves into the frame.

Three or four eggs are laid; glossy bright blue blotched with red-brown and purple; rounded-oval in shape, about 16 by 12 millimetres. The female usually incubates the eggs alone.