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. They are believed to be quite closely related to the swallows and martins, the bulbuls and the white-eyes. The genus contains about 50 species, of which only two are not found in Africa: one in Madagascar and the other from Asia to Australasia. They are also sometimes called fantail-warblers due to their habit of conspicuously flicking their tails, or tailor-birds because of their nests.
The genus was erected by the German naturalist Johann Jakob Kaup in 1829. The name Cisticola is from Ancient Greek kisthos, "rock-rose", and Latin colere, "to dwell".
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.
The zitting cisticola (or fan-tailed warbler) is widespread throughout the tropics and even breeds in southern Europe. It has occurred on a few occasions as a vagrant to England.