Common nightingale, Rufous nightingale

Luscinia megarhynchos
Population size
43-81 Thou
Life Span
1-8 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
g oz 
cm inch 
cm inch 

The nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos ) is a small passerine bird best known for its powerful and beautiful song. The song of this secretive bird has been described as one of the most beautiful sounds in nature, inspiring songs, fairy tales, opera, books, and a great deal of poetry.


The Nightingale is plain brown above except for the reddish tail and is buff to white below. The males and females are similar in appearance. The eastern subspecies and the Caucasian subspecies have paler upperparts and a stronger face pattern, including a pale supercilium.




Nightingales are migratory birds that breed in Europe, Asia, and northwest Africa, and winter in sub-Saharan Africa. They inhabit forests, open woodlands with thickets often along water bodies, and shrubland. Nightingales can also be found in suburban gardens and parks.

Nightingale habitat map

Climate zones

Nightingale habitat map
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Habits and Lifestyle

Nightingales are solitary birds that are active during the day. They are very shy and often hide in thick scrubs or bushes. These birds forage on the ground hopping around searching for food items in the leaf litter or glean on low branches and leaves. Sometimes they may hunt from perch and drop to catch their prey on the ground or pursue insects on the wing. Nightingales sing mainly during the night but can also be heard in the daytime. Their song is loud, with an impressive range of whistles, trills, and gurgles. Only unpaired males sing regularly at night, and nocturnal song probably serves to attract a mate. Singing at dawn, during the hour before sunrise, is assumed to be important in defending the bird's territory. Nightingales sing even more loudly in urban or near-urban environments, in order to overcome the background noise. The most characteristic feature of their song is a loud whistling crescendo. When disturbed nightingales produce a frog-like warning call.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Nightingales are carnivores (insectivores) and herbivores (frugivores, granivores). They feed on beetles, gnats, ants, caterpillars, flies, small worms, spiders, and larvae. In autumn these birds supplement their diet with berries and seeds.

Mating Habits

late April to mid-July
13-14 days
25-42 days
4-5 eggs

Nightingales are serially monogamous and pairs form only for one breeding season. In Europe, they breed between late April and mid-July. Nightingales become very territorial during the breeding season and males aggressively defend their nest territory. Pairs nest on or near the ground in dense vegetation. The nest is an open cup structure made with dead leaves and grass. The female lays 4-5 olive-green eggs and incubates them within 13 to 14 days; the male during this time provides her with food. They are born helpless and are fed by their parents for about 10 to 12 days; at this time the chicks fledge and are ready to leave the nest. They become completely independent 15 to 30 days later and reach reproductive maturity one year of age.


Population threats

Nightingales are not currently threatened; however, they suffer from habitat loss due to agricultural development and are also sensitive to climate change.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total Nightingale population size is around 43,000,000-81,000,000 mature individuals. In Europe, the breeding population consists of 10,700,000-20,300,000 pairs, which equates to 21,500,000-40,500,000 mature individuals. Overall, currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Ecological niche

Nightingales play an important role in their ecosystem. Due to their diet habits, these birds control populations of various insects that may damage leaves and the growth of trees and bushes.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Nightingales are so named because they frequently sing at night. The name has been used for more than 1,000 years, being highly recognizable even in its Old English form nihtegale, which means "night songstress". This is why its name includes "night" in several languages. Early writers assumed the female sang when it is, in fact, the male.
  • Males lose weight each night when they sing their beautiful songs.
  • Due to their secretive nature, nightingales are very difficult to spot and most people have heard of but never seen these birds.
  • The nightingale has been used as a symbol of poets or their poetry. Poets chose this bird as a symbol because of its creative and seemingly spontaneous song. For some romantic poets, the nightingale even began to take on qualities of the muse.
  • The nightingale is the national bird of Ukraine. One legend tells how nightingales once only lived in India when one nightingale visited Ukraine. Hearing sad songs from the people, the bird sang its song to cheer them up. The people responded with happy songs, and since then, nightingales have visited Ukraine every spring to hear Ukrainian songs. National poet Taras Shevchenko observed that "even the memory of the nightingale's song makes man happy."

Coloring Pages


1. Nightingale on Wikipedia -
2. Nightingale on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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