Nightingale, an Old World bird of the thrush family, celebrated in poetry and legend for the sweetness of its song. Nightingales are about 6 ½ inches (16 cm) long, and are brown above and whitish below. They feed chiefly on insects, but also eat small fruit. The female builds the cup-shaped, grass-lined nest of sticks and leaves near the ground in a thicket or hedge. She lays four or five greenish-blue eggs. The male is the singer. The song—loud, varied, melodious—may be continued for several hours. Nightingales sing both by day and at night.

The nightingaleThe nightingale is celebrated in poetry and legend for its song.

One variety of nightingale is native to Europe (including England), southwestern Asia, and Africa south to Uganda and Kenya. Two other varieties live only in Asia and Africa. A closely related species, the thrush nightingale, is similar to the nightingale in appearance and habits. It is found from northern Europe to western Siberia, and south to northern South Africa.

Do Nightingales Sing Only at Night?

No, nightingales sing during the day and at night. But their night singing is what makes these birds special. Most songbirds sing only during the day. Scientists think that the increase in light at sunrise is what makes the birds start to sing. When the light dims at night, their singing stops. But nightingales keep on singing—even after dark.

The nightingale is famous for its loud, sad song. But you will probably never get to hear a nightingale. Nightingales live deep in forests, where they are difficult to find. In winter, however, they do migrate to Africa from their homes in Europe and Asia.

The nightingale is a kind of songbird called a thrush. Bluebirds and robins are thrushes, too. All these birds are excellent singers.

Nightingales belong to the family Turdidae. The nightingale is Luscinia megarhynchos; the thrush nightingale, L. luscinia.