NIGHTINGALE (Luscinia Megarhynchos)

FAMILY: TURDIDAE (Thrushes and chats)

Known across the world for their song, the nightingale is more often heard than seen! Migrates to the UK in the springtime, normally in April, and is found in dense thickets, bushes, and woodland. Their song is powerful but relatively unstructured and unique.

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Alert Status:

Red -42% decline

Estimated number of breeding males: 5,550

Listen to nightingale song


The nightingale is plain looking (compared to their song that is anything but!), with dull grey-brown underparts and red-brown back and rump. They have a pale ring around their eye, and paler grey neck. Their tail is longish and when perched often appears raised. Juveniles look quite like juvenile robins as they are mottled brown in colouration but are much larger in size.

Average Length: 16-17 cm

Average Lifespan: 2-5 Years

Average Wingspan: 23-26 cm

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Nightingale diet

Nightingales mostly feed on invertebrates, grubs, and berries. They are normally seen eating within deep cover of hedges or shrubs, foraging on the ground. Nightingales are not really seen using feeders, but if you do use one, make sure it is a ground feeder.

How to feed: Ground feeder
What to feed:
 Berries and mealworms

Nightingale breeding and nesting information

Nightingales construct their nests close to the ground, often surrounded by leaf litter, dense cover, and shrubbery. Females build the nest from dead leaves and grass in a cup shape, which is then lined with fur or fine grasses prior to laying. Clutches are normally laid between May and June, with 1-2 broods laid annually. Each clutch has 4-5 eggs that are incubated by the female for around 2 weeks. The eggs are an olive green in colouration.

Threats to nightingales

One of the major threats to nightingales is believed to be due to habitat loss, where there is a need for very dense and low vegetation as well as scrubland to keep the nightingale protected from predation.

How you can help

Avoid using pesticides or herbicides in your garden

Plant thick hedges in gardens that provide habitat and suitable food

Provide areas of shelter and access to water.

Fascinating Fact

The nightingale and its melodic songs are portrayed in literature across the world. One of the earliest references to the nightingale is in Homer’s Odyssey where Penelope expresses that her grief for her son is like the lamenting, wavering and passionate song of the nightingale.
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BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Luscinia Megarhynchos. Downloaded from on 20/06/2022.  

Fuller, R. J. (2012) Avian responses to transitional habitats in temperate landscapes: woodland edges and young-growth. Birds and Habitat: Relationships in Changing Landscapes (ed R.J.Fuller), pp. 125-149. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Holt, C. A., Fuller, R. J., Dolman, P. M. (2010) Experimental evidence that deer browsing reduces habitat suitability for breeding Common Nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos. Ibis. 152: 335-346.

Holt, C.A., Hewson, C.M., Fuller, R.J. (2012) The Nightingale in Britain: status, ecology and conservation needs. British Birds. 105: 172-187.

Homer. (1919). The Odyssey. London : New York :W. Heinemann; G.P. Putnam's sons.

Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: profiles of birds occurring in Britain & Ireland. BTO, Thetford (, accessed on 28 March 2022)

Stanbury, A.J., Eaton, M.A., Aebischer, N.J., Balmer, D., Brown, A.F., Douse, A., Lindley, P., McCulloch, N., Noble, D.G., Win, I. (2021) The status of our bird populations: the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and second IUCN Red List assessment of extinction risk for Great Britain. British Birds. 114 

Wilson, A. M., Fuller, R. J., Day, C., Smith, G. (2005) Nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos in scrub habitats in the southern fens of East Anglia, England: associations with soil type and vegetation structure. Ibis. 147: 498-511.

Wilson, A. M., Henderson, A. C. B., Fuller, R. J. (2002) Status of the Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos in Britain at the end of the 20th Century with particular reference to climate change. Bird Study. 49: 193-204.

Woodward, I., Aebischer, N., Burnell,D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D. & Noble, D. (2020) Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104.

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