The wonderfully melodious Nightingale (Luscinia Megarhynchos) is a plain brown bird which is only 16cm in length. These shy and secretive birds are notable for their beautiful song. They can produce over 1000 different sounds and males often sing throughout the night. These birds are generally heard rather than seen in the UK.
What is the Nightingale’s distribution and population?
Nightingales tend to hide themselves away in dense thickets and so are incredibly hard to spot. They are migratory birds which arrive in the UK during April and leave during July and August. They breed only in the southeast of the country, principally in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Kent and Sussex.
Nightingales breed in heathland, wetland and woodland habitats. Their numbers have declined by an estimated 90% in the last 50 years and so these birds are now red-listed as a species of conservation concern. The falling population is believed to be the result of several factors including climate change, woodland management, wetter springs and the increased number of deer grazing in woodland. Only 6,700 breeding pairs of nightingales currently visit the UK each year.
What do nightingales eat?
These small and secretive birds feed mainly on insects, principally by foraging on the ground. They are particularly fond of ants and beetles.
Where do Nightingales nest?
Nightingales build their nests on the ground and amongst the twigs in the dense undergrowth of woodland, orchards and sometimes gardens. The nest is constructed by the female from dead leaves and grass, and then lined with fine grasses and hair. Nightingales produce a single clutch of 4-5 eggs each year which the female incubates alone for 13-14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge after 11-12 days.
Did you know?
When male Nightingales are heard singing throughout the night, it is thought these are single birds, trying to attract migrating females as they fly over.
The first birdsong to be broadcast on radio was that of the Nightingale.