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Nightingales are similar to, (but slightly larger than) Robins, with a robust, broad-tailed, rather plain brown appearance. They are a shy bird, and are more common in southern Europe. In the UK they are found in the South.

Their diet consists of Insects, beetles and ants, also berries in autumn. The famous song is indeed of high quality, with a fast succession of high, low and rich notes that few other species can match.

A secretive bird, who likes nothing better than hiding in the middle of an impenetrable bush. It is plain brown above except for the reddish tail. It is buff to white below. Nightingales are so named because they frequently sing at night as well as during the day. The Nightingale is very closely related to the Thrush Nightingale, and they are difficult to tell apart, the latter having a grey toned (rather than brown) back, and less red tail.

Quick Facts

11-13 days

Number in Britain

Conservation Status UK

Status in UK
Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor




Thickets, damp undergrowth, and woodland

First Record
7th Century

Egg Size
21x16 mm

Egg Weight

Clutch Size
4-5 eggs

14-18 days

Number of broods
1 or 2

First clutches laid
Early to mid May

Age at First Breeding
1 year

Typical lifespan
3 years

Maximum Recorded Age
7 years, 1 month

  • A poem was written by John Keats in 1819 as a tribute to a Nightingale seen on Hampstead Heath.
  • In Victorian times groups of people would go out to listen to nightingales singing.
  • They sing during the day and night and it is at night they are heard the best, they have less bird song to contend with.
  • What makes the song so outstanding is its variety, ability and the range. It has been shown that a nightingale can have an array of 200 different phrases.
  • It is only the male bird that sings.
  • They return from migration in late April and start singing straight away and continue until mid-June.
  • They look rather dull and uninteresting, and both sexes are identical to look at.
  • The population of Nightingales is around 8,000 pairs in Britain.
  • Singing males are hard to see as they are well known for hiding in dense cover.
  • They start migrating to Africa in July and reach the peak in August

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