Bird of the Week: Nightingale

The small bird with the unmistakeable song that lights up the British summer twilight.

By Jamie Wyver
photographs by RSPB Images
Published 28 May 2019, 11:49 BST
The Nightingale's song is the quintessential soundtrack to British summer evenings, but it is a song ...
The Nightingale's song is the quintessential soundtrack to British summer evenings, but it is a song under threat.
Photograph by John Bridges, RSPB

This famous songster, celebrated in literature, music and poetry, has a truly magical song. It has a liquid quality, with the bird rapidly warbling high, low and rich notes unmatched by other birds. Seeing this elusive bird, even during this performance, is tricky, as it is usually hidden deep in the undergrowth.

Nightingales are summer visitors to Britain. After spending the winter in West Africa they arrive back here in mid-April to nest in scrubby areas near water. 

Nightingales are on the UK Red List, with their numbers having crashed by around 90% in the last 50 years. It’s thought that the loss of nesting sites is driving their decline. In fact the most important UK site for these birds, Lodge Hillin Kent, is under threat of development. Up to 85 singing nightingales have been recorded here, so destruction of this special place would drive their population down even further.

Numbers of nightingales have crashed by around 90% in fifty years.
Photograph by Graham Goodall
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