Its unassuming look hides a powerful voice that has been a favorite of birdwatchers for generations. The common nightingale species of Europe, Asia, and Africa are usually referred to by the term nightingale. The closely related thrush nightingale, the whole nightingale genus, or a few unrelated songbird species such as the nightingale-thrush are all synonyms for the nightingale. Unless otherwise stated, however, this article will focus on the common nightingale, sometimes known as the rufous nightingale.
Nightingale Scientific Classification
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Passeriformes
- Family: Muscicapidae
- Genus: Luscinia
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
- Locations: Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Europe
- Main Prey: Fruit, Nuts, Seeds, Insects
- Fun Fact: The male nightingale has one of the most complex and sophisticated verbal sounds in the entire animal kingdom
- Distinctive Feature: Small body size with no markings and thin beak
- Wingspan: 8 to 10 inches
- Incubation Period: 13 or 14 days
- Habitat: Open forests and thickets
- Predators: Rats, Cats, Lizards
- Diet: Omnivore
- Lifestyle: Solitary
- Favorite Food: Fruit
- Type: Bird
- Average Clutch Size: 3
- Slogan: Named more than 1,000 years ago!
- Nesting Location: Trees
- Age of Molting: 11 to 13 days
- Migratory: 1
Nightingale Physical Characteristics
- Colour: Brown, Tan
- Skin Type: Feathers
- Top Speed: 18 mph
- Lifespan: 1 – 3 years
- Weight: 15g – 22g (0.5oz – 0.7oz)
- Length: 14cm – 16.5cm (5.5in – 6.5in)
An Amazing Bird: 4 Nightingale Facts!
- Nightingale is derived from an Old English word that has been in use for almost 1,400 years.
- Nightingale birds are known for their night song, yet only the unpaired males sing at night, and only during the mating season.
- The vocal repertoire of the common nightingale ranges from 180 to 260 song variants. Younger adult males have a 53 percent wider range than older adult males, although it’s unclear why.
- Many creative works include nightingale birds, such as John Keats’ poem “Ode to a Nightingale,” Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s song “The Nightingale,” and Igor Stravinsky’s piece “Song of the Nightingale.” Ovid’s Latin narrative poem Metamorphoses included a character who transformed into one of these birds.
Where to Find the Nightingale
The common nightingale is divided into three subspecies, each with its own geographic range. The western nightingale spends the majority of the year in Western Europe, North Africa, and Asia Minor, and then winters in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Caucasian nightingale can only be found in a small area between the Caucasus and Iran. It goes to East Africa in the winter. Finally, the eastern nightingale is a Central Asian endemic that also spends the winter in East Africa. The thrush nightingale, the second primary species of the bird, is confined to a vast length of land between Denmark, Ukraine, and Central Asia, and it migrates to southern Africa in the winter. Both species prefer woodlands or shrublands, where they can hide from predators.
Twigs, driving leaves, and grass are used to build nightingale nests in trees. The hazel tree is its preferred nesting location.
Luscinia megarhynchos is the scientific name for the rufous or common nightingale. The Latin name for nightingale is Luscinia, while megarhynchos is a mixture of two Ancient Greek words: mega, which means great, and rhunkhos, which means bill. Luscinia luscinia is the scientific name for a second species, the thrush nightingale (also known as the sprosser). The genus Luscinia, which includes the bluethroat and white-bellied redstart, was previously classified as part of the Turdidae family of thrushes, but taxonomists eventually transferred it to the Muscicapidae family of Old World flycatchers.
Size, Appearance & Behavior
This is a tiny bird that is 7 inches long and has a wingspan of 8 to 10 inches. Males are somewhat bigger than females on average, but due to greater metabolic rates and energy consumption, while singing, they might occasionally weigh less than females. The plumage of this bird is basic brown with a brighter underbelly. It has a wide tail and black eyes that are surrounded by white rings. The beak of the bird is tiny, flat, and yellow in color.
These birds don’t seem to have any kind of social structure. Instead, throughout the non-winter seasons, this bird maintains a particular area, which is then vigorously defended from outside invaders. Fights are more likely to occur when two guys are engaged. The enormous variety of songs with which these birds communicate is, nevertheless, their most outstanding trait. There seem to be two distinct sorts of tunes. Territorial defense and sexual selection are both done using whistle calls. All other forms of communication are conducted via non-whistle calls.
Breeding rights are highly sought. Only the healthiest, most aggressive men who sing the finest songs will be able to find a mate. Approximately half of all birds may not be able to reproduce at all. The song, however, comes at a significant cost to the bird, both in terms of energy consumption and the likelihood of being detected by a predator.
Migration Timing and Pattern
Every winter, these birds migrate to Africa’s warmer climates, only to return in the spring, just in time for the mating season. Every year, the time is pretty much the same. Climate change, on the other hand, maybe causing the bird to return somewhat earlier each year. The migration is poorly understood, although it appears to migrate alone to its winter habitat.
The Bird’s Diet
During the day, the bird comes out to look for food. Due to the quantity of energy wasted in song, males who sing at night must build up more reserves.
What does the nightingale eat?
Adult insects and their larvae are the major food sources for these birds. In the autumn, it complements this with berries and other fruits.
The Bird’s Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status
Predators and habitat degradation are currently threatening these birds. Despite these concerns, the IUCN Red List rates both the common and thrush nightingales as least endangered.
What eats the nightingale?
The major predators of the species are the tawny owl and other big birds.
Nightingale: The Bird’s Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan
The breeding season for the common nightingale occurs every year in May and June. The male seeks a mate by making a whistle-like sound that is especially audible at night when there are few other birds around. The girl is quite picky and will only choose a partner who has the finest song. When the male has found a mate, he will limit the number of whistles and stop singing at night until the female has laid her eggs.
Although both parents protect the eggs from predators, only the female builds the nest and incubates the eggs. The freshly hatched chicks remain underdeveloped and heavily reliant on their parents for survival when they emerge from the eggs two weeks later, but they grow their flying feathers after 11 to 13 days. The pace with which it develops might be linked to the time of the fall migratory season.
The average lifespan of a common nightingale is one to five years. The bird only gets a few chances to reproduce since it takes approximately a year for the chicks to start reproducing on their own. The longest known lifetime is eight years, however, most die of old age before succumbing to predators.
According to the IUCN Red List, adult common or rufous nightingales number 43 million to 81 million in the wild, with a smaller but still remarkable 12 million to 22 million mature thrush nightingales. The population may have decreased significantly since its peak. This might be owing to the loss of flora caused by the invasion of non-native animals such as the roe deer. Changes to wintering sites might potentially be a factor.
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