The Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), also known as Rufous Nightingale and Common Nightingale, is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher, Muscicapidae. It belongs to a group of more terrestrial species, often called chats.
It is a migratory insectivorous species breeding in forest and scrub in Europe and south-west Asia. The distribution is more southerly than the very closely related Thrush Nightingale Luscinia luscinia. It nests on the ground within or next to dense bushes. It winters in southern Africa. At least in the Rhineland (Germany) breeding habitat of nightingales is known to agree with a number of geographical parameters (Wink 1973):
The Nightingale is slightly larger than the European Robin, at 15-16.5 cm length. It is plain brown above except for the reddish tail. It is buff to white below. Sexes are similar.
Nightingales are named so because they frequently sing at night
as well as during the day. The name has been used for well over
1,000 years, being highly recognizable even in its Anglo-Saxon
form - 'nihtingale'. It means 'night songstress'. Early writers
assumed the female sang, whereas of course it is the male. The
male Nightingale is known for his singing, to the extent that
human singers are sometimes admiringly referred to as
nightingales; the song is loud, with an impressive range of
whistles, trills and gurgles. Its song is particularly
noticeable at night because few other birds are singing. This is
why its name (in several languages) includes "night". Only
unpaired males sing regularly at night, and nocturnal song is
likely to serve attracting a mate. Singing at dawn, during the
hour before sunrise, is assumed to be important to defend the
territory. Nightingales sing even more loudly in urban or
near-urban environments, in order to overcome the background
noise. The most characteristic feature of the song is a loud
whistling crescendo, absent from the song of Thrush Nightingale.
It has a frog-like alarm call.
The eastern subspecies L. m. hafizi and L. m. africana have paler upperparts and a stronger face-pattern, including a pale supercilium.
This Nightingale Page is Copyright The Animal Web Guide © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub