AskDefine | Define nightingale

Dictionary Definition



1 European songbird noted for its melodious nocturnal song [syn: Luscinia megarhynchos]
2 English nurse remembered for her work during the Crimean War (1820-1910) [syn: Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /'naɪtɪŋgeɪl/


  1. A European singing bird, Luscinia megarhynchos in the family Turdidae.



Extensive Definition

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.
It is a migratory insectivorous species breeding in forest and scrub in Europe and south-west Asia. 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) breeding habitat of nightingales is known to agree with a number of geographical parameters (Wink 1973):
The Nightingale is slightly larger than the European Robin, at 15-16.5 cm length. It is plain brown above except for the reddish tail. It is buff to white below. Sexes are similar.
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 - 'nihtingale'. It means 'night songstress'. Early writers assumed the female sang; in fact, it is the male. The male nightingale is known for his singing, to the extent that human singers are sometimes admiringly referred to as nightingales; 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 (in several languages) includes "night". 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 eastern subspecies L. m. hafizi and L. m. africana have paler upperparts and a stronger face-pattern, including a pale supercilium.


  • Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  • Wink, Michael (1973): Die Verbreitung der Nachtigall (Luscinia megarhynchos) im Rheinland. Charadrius 9(2/3): 65-80. [Article in German] PDF fulltext

External links

nightingale in Arabic: بلبل
nightingale in Azerbaijani: Bülbül (quş)
nightingale in Breton: Eostig
nightingale in Bulgarian: Южен славей
nightingale in Catalan: Rossinyol
nightingale in Czech: Slavík obecný
nightingale in Danish: Sydlig nattergal
nightingale in German: Nachtigall
nightingale in Spanish: Luscinia megarhynchos
nightingale in Esperanto: Najtingalo
nightingale in French: Rossignol philomèle
nightingale in Galician: Rousinol
nightingale in Korean: 나이팅게일
nightingale in Ido: Naktigalo
nightingale in Italian: Luscinia megarhynchos
nightingale in Hebrew: זמיר הירדן
nightingale in Kurdish: Bilbil (Ajal)
nightingale in Lithuanian: Vakarinė lakštingala
nightingale in Hungarian: Csalogány
nightingale in Dutch: Nachtegaal
nightingale in Japanese: サヨナキドリ
nightingale in Norwegian: Sørnattergal
nightingale in Occitan (post 1500): Luscinia megarhynchos
nightingale in Polish: Słowik rdzawy
nightingale in Portuguese: Rouxinol
nightingale in Romanian: Privighetoare
nightingale in Quechua: Ruysiñur
nightingale in Finnish: Etelänsatakieli
nightingale in Swedish: Sydnäktergal
nightingale in Turkish: Bülbül
nightingale in Samogitian: Lakštėngala
nightingale in Chinese: 夜鶯
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