Monday, June 24, 2013


I am not sure there is anything special about the nightingale, apart from its magnificent song, but when trying to think of a bird beginning with the letter N, I remembered when I was a child there was a very popular song "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square.  It was during the war years (WW2) and Vera Lynn sang the song beautifully.  I feel that love songs are so important to everyone in war time.
Others have done justice to the song as well, including Frank Sinatra.

The Common Nightingale or simply Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) also known as Rufous 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.

The Common Nightingale is slightly larger than the European Robin, at 15-16.5 cm (5.9-6.5 in) in length.  It is plain brown above except for the reddish tail.  It is buff to white below.  Sexes are similar.  The eastern subspecies have paler upperparts and a stronger face pattern.  The song of the Nightingale has been described as one of the most beautiful sounds in nature, inspiring songs, fairy tales, opera, books and a great deal of poetry.

Nightingales are named so as they frequently sing at night as well as during the day.  The name has been used for well over 1,000 years, being highly recognisable 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 to attract 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 developments, in order to overcome the background noise.  The most characteristic feature of the song is a loud whistling crescendo, absent from the song of the Thrush Nightingale.  It has a frog-like alarm call.

You can listen to the "Song of the Nightingale" by popping those words into Google.  I thought it was rather nice and yet I felt our canary had a better song but perhaps I am prejudiced.  I did ask Phil if he remembered hearing nightingales singing when he lived in England.  He said he had heard them but it is now over 53 years and he remembers the song of our canary much better so I didn't get very far there.  The nightingale has been associated with romance over the centuries so it certainly must have something that inspires poets and the like.  I thought the following quite interesting.  I've not heard this music but would dearly love to do so.  Once again it seems the nightingale has been an inspiration.


  1. "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square". Oh I remember hearing my Grandfather sing this song. The Nightingales songs have inspired writers forever. We have not any of those little birds here and someday I hope to hear one in person. B

  2. I can remember singing that song as a child when the family all gathered around the piano for a sing song back in the 1940s. It has very beautiful words. We of course don't have nightingales in Australia, more's the pity. We have many very colourful birds but few songbirds of note.x

  3. My mother said that she missed the nightingale. And yes, you are right - many of our birds are beautiful and very, very few of them are musical. The magpie and the lyre-bird, the whip-bird and then I start to struggle...

  4. That brings back memories EC. I am sure my mother also spoke lovingly of the song of the nightingale.
    For many years a magpie that was part of the local group made the most musical sounds. I've not heard one quite like it since.

  5. Now you have me wondering what type of bird I've heard here at dawn and dusk, singing to wake the others with a different bird answering each call, with the sequence repeated as the sun goes down. It's a beautiful sound, but heard only in spring and summer.

  6. That is so interesting. You perhaps need an ornithologist to answer that question. I am rarely awake at dawn so not sure which birds do what in our garden at that time. : )