Nightingale (Birds)






Luscinia megarhynchos


• One of the world’s most famous songbirds; the male uses his melodious voice to attract a female
• Hardy enough to live in areas of dry shrubland, this secretive bird nests in bushy undergrowth
• Spends the winter months in Africa, returning north in summer to breed


Breeds in Europe, northwest Africa, the Balkans and southwest-central Asia; winters south of the Sahara, from West Africa to Uganda


More likely to be heard than seen, the nightingale skulks in dense undergrowth singing its melodious songs during the warm nights of spring and early summer.


A Sheltered life Nightingales favor habitats like hedges.
A Sheltered life Nightingales favor habitats like hedges.
The nightingale prefers low, tangled cover, which it finds-in open deciduous woodland, thickets and hedgerows. Over most of its range, the nightingale is a lowland bird, but it has been recorded at 8,580′ in the mountains of central Asia, and in Switzerland it can breed at 3,600′.
Many territories are near streams or pools, although the nightingale may inhabit dry hillsides in hotter parts of its range and sometimes lives in low-growing shrubs among coastal sand dunes.
When singing during the day, the nightingale frequently changes perches, but nocturnal songs are usually delivered from the same position.
The nightingale often sings in two three-hour sessions at night, the first ending at around midnight and the second beginning early in the morning.

Food & feeding

During the breeding season, insects and other invertebrates form the nightingale’s staple diet. In late summer, the bird adds berries to this intake.
Leaf litter is the nightingale’s favorite hunting ground. It hops about in search of ants and beetles. If there are none, it eats caterpillars, spiders and earthworms.
The nightingale may drop on prey from low branches, or pick it from the bark of its perching tree. On rare occasions, it takes winged insects, such as moths and small butterflies, from the air; Autumn brings a wealth of new feeding opportunities, and the nightingale seeks out wild cherries, elderberries, sloes and currants.
Open season Chicks thrive on summer insects.


The nightingale selects a new partner each year, often returning to a previous site. The male returns from his overwintering grounds before the female to establish a territory. He attracts potential mates by singing and then displays at close range.
After mating, the female builds a cup-shaped nest of dead leaves and coarse grass. She incubates the eggs alone, but both parents feed the nestlings during the two weeks of rapid growth between their hatching and leaving the nest.
Pulling out The mother keeps the nest clean by removing the nestlings’ fecal sacs.


The voice of a male nightingale is celebrated as one of the most beautiful of the bird kingdom. His song varies by season and circumstances. It is richest, loudest and most often performed in late spring, when the male sings at night to attract a mate and to proclaim territory.These arias are delivered from the same perches night after night, often high up and exposed. By day, his songs are less varied and are delivered in shorter bursts.
The male performs a quieter version of his song when courting a female, and maintains contact with her with short fragments of song. In the event of danger, both sexes have croaking alarm calls.
A Change of tune The male nightingale has a wide repertoire of songs.
A Change of tune The male nightingale has a wide repertoire of songs.

making local calls

The male nightingale stands
with his wings spread as he sings to inform migrating females of his presence at a breeding territory.
He lowers his voice as a female arrives, then displays to her at close range, fanning his tail and excitedly quivering his wings.
After mating, the female collects dead leaves to make the foundation of her nest under vegetation, near or on the ground.
The orange mouths of the chicks may stimulate the parent into bringing food. The most aggressive chick is often fed first.


Like most songbirds, the nightingale suffers j as habitats dwindle and pollutants enter the food chain. Numbers fluctuate year to year and vary locally: of the 10,000 pairs in the Netherlands, more are in the west than in the south and east. British populations, currently around 6,000 pairs, are declining. Overall, however, the species is not in serious decline.



Long legs and large feet enable the nightingale to hop among leaf litter; it is camouflaged by its reddish-brown plumage.

Creature comparisons

The nightingale’s counterpart to the north and east of its range in Europe and Asia is the thrush nightingale (Luscinia luscinia). Unlike its relative, the thrush nightingale is restricted to lowlands and avoids dry areas. However, both birds are found in woods near waterThe two species are similar-looking; even their voices are hard to tell apart, although the nightingale is the more versatile singerThe song of the nightingale is more nelodic and contains fewer harsh sounds, but it is weaker than that of its relative.The thrush nightingale has obscure gray breast spots, like those of the song thrush (hence the name) and duller upperparts than the nightingale.

Weight 0.6-1 oz. Length 6.5″
WlNGSPAN 9-10.5″
Sexual Maturity 1 year
Breeding Season May-June
Number of Eggs 4-5
Incubation Period 13 days
Fledging Period II days
Typical Diet Insects and their larvae, spiders, fruit and berries
Lifespan Up to 8 years


• The nightingale is I of 10 species in the genus . Luscinia. The other species tend to be more brightly colored, but their songs are not as melodic as the nightingale’s. They include the Siberian rubythroat, L. calliope, and the bluethroat, L. svecica, which breeds in Europe, Scandinavia and northern Asia. Luscinia belongs to family Turdidae, which has more than 300 members worldwide.

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