About this sound Song
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Muscicapidae
Genus: Luscinia
Species: L. megarhynchos
Binomial name
Luscinia megarhynchos
(Brehm, 1831)

The Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), also known as Rufous 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.


Range and habitat

It is a migratory insectivorous species breeding in forest and scrub in Europe and south-west Asia, but is not found naturally in the Americas. 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), the breeding habitat of nightingales agrees with a number of geographical parameters.[2]

Appearance and song

The nightingale is slightly larger than the European Robin, at 15–16.5 cm (5.9–6.5 in) length. It is plain brown above except for the reddish tail. It is buff to white below. Sexes are similar. The eastern subspecies L. m. hafizi and L. m. africana have paler upperparts and a stronger face-pattern, including a pale supercilium.

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 – 'nightingale'. It means 'night songstress'. Early writers assumed the female sang when it is in fact the male. 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 includes "night" in several languages. 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 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 the song is a loud whistling crescendo, absent from the song of Thrush Nightingale. It has a frog-like alarm call.


The nightingale is an important symbol for poets from a variety of ages, and has taken on a number of symbolic connotations. Homer evokes the Nightingale in the Odyssey, suggesting the myth of Philomela and Procne (one of whom, depending on the myth's version, is turned into a nightingale[3] ).[4] This myth is the focus of Sophocles' tragedy, Tereus, of which only fragments remain. Ovid, too, in his Metamorphoses, includes the most popular version of this myth, imitated and altered by later poets, including Chrétien de Troyes, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, and George Gascoigne. T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" also evokes the Nightingale's song (and the myth of Philomela and Procne).[5] Because of the violence associated with the myth, the nightingale's song was long interpreted as a lament.

The Nightingale has also been used as a symbol of poets or their poetry.[6] Poets chose the nightingale as a symbol because of its creative and seemingly spontaneous song. Aristophanes' Birds and Callimachus both evoke the bird's song as a form of poetry. Virgil compares a mourning Orpheus to the “lament of the nightingale”.[7] John Milton and others of the 17th century renewed the symbol. In "L'Allegro" Milton characterizes Shakespeare as a nightingale warbling “his native woodnotes wilde” (line 136), and Andrew Marvell in his "On Paradise Lost" subsequently described Milton's Paradise Lost in similar terms:

"Thou sing'st with so much gravity and ease,
And above human flight dost soar aloft,
With plume so strong, so equal, and so soft:
The bird named from that paradise you sing
So never flags, but always keeps on wing" (line 40)

In Sonnet 102 Shakespeare compares his love poetry to the song of the nightingale (Philomel):

"Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays;
As Philomel in summer's front doth sing,
And stops his pipe in growth of riper days:"

During the Romantic era the bird's symbolism changed once more: poets viewed the nightingale not only as a poet in his own right, but as “master of a superior art that could inspire the human poet”.[8] For some romantic poets, the nightingale even began to take on qualities of the muse. Coleridge and Wordsworth saw the nightingale more as an instance of natural poetic creation: the nightingale became a voice of nature. John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" pictures the nightingale as an idealized poet who has achieved the poetry that Keats longs to write. Invoking a similar conception of the nightingale, Shelley wrote in his “A Defense of Poetry":

"A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”[9]



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Luscinia megarhynchos. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  2. ^ (German) Wink, Michael (1973): " Die Verbreitung der Nachtigall (Luscinia megarhynchos) im Rheinland". Charadrius 9(2/3): 65-80. (PDF)
  3. ^ Salisbury, Joyce E. (2001), Women in the ancient world, ABC-CLIO, p. 276, ISBN 9781576070925, 
  4. ^ Chandler, Albert R. (1934), "The Nightingale in Greek and Latin Poetry", The Classic Journal (The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc.) XXX (2): 78–84, 
  5. ^ Eliot, T.S. (1964), The Waste Land and Other Poems (Signet Classic ed.), New York, NY: Penguin Group, pp. 32–59, ISBN 978-0-451-52684-7 
  6. ^ Shippey, Thomas (1970), "Listening to the Nightingale", Comparative Literature (Duke University Press) XXII (1): 46–60, 
  7. ^ Doggett, Frank (1974), "Romanticism's Singing Bird", Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 (Rice University) XIV (4): 568, 
  8. ^ Doggett, Frank (1974), "Romanticism's Singing Bird", Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 (Rice University) XIV (4): 570, 
  9. ^ Bysshe Shelley, Percy (1903), A Defense of Poetry, Boston, MA: Ginn & Company, p. 11 
  10. ^ Stedman, Edmund C. (1884), "Keats", The Century XXVII: 600, 
  11. ^ Swinburne, Algernon Charles (1886), "Keats", Miscellanies, New York: Worthington Company, pp. 221,, retrieved 2008-10-08 . Reprinted from the Encyclopædia Britannica.
  12. ^ "The Rose and nightingale in Persian literature". Archived from the original on 2008-01-22. 
  13. ^ The Nightingale
  14. ^ Croatian National Bank. Kuna and Lipa, Coins of Croatia: 1 Kuna Coin. – Retrieved on 31 March 2009.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nightingale — (engl. für „Nachtigall“) ist: ein Familienname: Florence Nightingale (1820–1910), Pionierin der modernen Krankenpflege Frances Parthenope Verney (1819–1890; auch: Parthenope Nightingale), britische Schriftstellerin und Journalistin; Schwester von …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Nightingale — Nightingale, Nosturi 2008 Datos generales Origen Örebro …   Wikipedia Español

  • Nightingale — Night in*gale, n. [OE. nihtegale,nightingale, AS. nihtegale; niht night + galan to sing, akin to E. yell; cf. D. nachtegaal, OS. nahtigala, OHG. nahtigala, G. nachtigall, Sw. n[ a]ktergal, Dan. nattergal. See {Night}, and {Yell}.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) A …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Nightingale —   [ naɪtɪȖgeɪl], Florence, britische Krankenschwester, Pflegetheoretikerin, Berufs und Sozialreformerin, * Florenz 12. 5. 1820, ✝ London 13. 8. 1910. Umfassender sozialer Sachverstand, Eindrücke menschlischen Leidens (u. a. Hungersnot 1842/43)… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Nightingale — (Краков,Польша) Категория отеля: Адрес: ul. Bosacka 6b/6, Гжегорски, 31 505 Краков, Пол …   Каталог отелей

  • nightingale — (n.) O.E. næctigalæ, nihtegale, compound formed in Proto Germanic (Cf. Du. nachtegaal, Ger. Nachtigall) from *nakht night (see NIGHT (Cf. night)) + *galon to sing, related to O.E. giellan yell (see YELL (Cf …   Etymology dictionary

  • Nightingale [2] — Nightingale (spr. naitin gēl). Miß Florence, durch ihre menschenfreundlichen Bestrebungen bekannt geworden, geb. 12. Mai 1820 in Florenz als Tochter eines englischen Gutsbesitzers, erhielt von ihrer Mutter, einer Tochter Will Smiths, des eifrigen …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • NIGHTINGALE — (Heb. זָמִיר (mod.), zamir), a name applied to singing birds of the genus Luscinia, of which three species are found in Israel. The most outstanding for its song is the Luscinia megarhynchos which hatches its eggs in the thickets of the Jordan.… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Nightingale — (spr. Neitingel), Florence, Tochter Will. Shore N s, eines reichen Gutsbesitzers in Derbyshire, machte sich mit den Wissenschaften vertraut u. erwarb sich in ihrem Vaterlande große Verdienste durch Errichtung von Schulen, Krankenanstalten u.… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Nightingale [1] — Nightingale, eine der drei Felseninseln von Tristan da Eunya (s. d.) …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Nightingale — (spr. neitingehl), Miß Florence, engl. Krankenpflegerin, geb. 15. Mai 1820 zu Florenz, im Krimkriege in den Hospitälern zu Skutari und Balaklawa aufopfernd tätig; schrieb: »Notes on nursing« (1860 u.ö.; deutsch, 2. Aufl. 1878) u.a …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.