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Topic : Land Birds

Article 7 bullet 07 December 2006

Rufous-winged and Luapula cisticolas - photographic comparisons

by Hugh Chittenden

Luapula Cisticola Cisticola luapula has been recently split from Black-backed Cisticola Cisticola galactotes (now known as Rufous-winged Cisticola, a far better name because of the many other different cisticolas in Africa that display just as much black on their backs – if not more!). They belong to a complex group that may comprise at least 5 different species. The validity of Luapula Cisticola has been questioned by some authors but it has been shown to have differences in call and behaviour. Below are photographic comparisons showing just how similar they are in the field.

Luapula cisticola

Luapula Cisticola. Photographed in August 06 on the western banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia (50 km north of Katima Mulilo).

Rufous-winged Cisticola

Rufous-winged Cisticola. Photographed in December at Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal. The specific name of this species galactotes, meaning ‘milk white’ refers to the pale creamy white underparts of this species in breeding plumage.

Comparison Photos

Rufous-winged and Luapula cisticolas, both photographed in fresh plumage during August. Fortunately these two species are geographically separated because in the field there is virtually no difference between the two! Features such as paler wing bars etc are really not valid when birds are properly compared in similar plumage condition.


Rufous-winged (KwaZulu-Natal) and Luapula (w Zambia) cisticolas showing worn plumage (left) and fresh plumage (right).


Rufous-winged Cisticola, showing winter and breeding plumage differences.



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