NIGHTINGALE (Luscinia megarhynchos)

Rossignol philomèle

 

Nightingale.jpgThe Nightingale is found only in the lowlands in Switzerland from 400m - 800m and usually in wet marshy areas or in rough scrub alongside rivers. They are summer visitors and from their return in mid-April they are immediately vocal, but stop singing in early June even though they are around until late September.

Nightingales really do sing at night ! But not only at night they also sing during the day, especially at dawn and up to about 11.00h after which they are much quieter until the evening. Quite a shy skulking bird they are difficult to see. If disturbed they often fly out of cover low over the ground into another patch - a dull brown bird with a rusty red tail.

But when they sing, they are second to none in my opinion. Beautiful pure rounded tones, deep mellow notes, rapid churrs and plaintive cries, all mixed up in rich, bubbling, piping phrases and delivered with real energy and exuberance: Here is a fairly long sequence so you can appreciate the full variety of the offerings:

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That long sequence gives the impression of a confusing gaggle of noise which would be hard to identify. And indeed each individual phrase is very different one from the other, researchers have found that an individual male can have 250 different phrases, each with subtle variations giving "600 phrase types" and these can be delivered at a rate of 400 per hour. But depsite the variety of notes there are certain patterns which stand out and help to immediately identify the songster as a Nightingale.

The opening phrase in that last recording was preceded by 4-5 very plaintive notes followed by a rapid warble, and those plaintive notes are one very distinctive feature for identification. Here is that opening, followed by the same pattern from 4 other birds - the notes are different in pitch and timbre between each one but you can appreciate that the pattern is distinctive:

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And here is what those notes look like, you can see that the plaintive tone in the opening notes comes from a  downward inflection, and they are then always followed by a rapid warble.

There are other phrases in that piece that are typical of a Nightingale, rich deep notes "chow-chow-chow" (to help you learn I have repeated one call 3 times here)

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and raidly repeated whistles (2 types of whistled phrase repeated twice each):

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Once you learn a few of these patterns you can pick them up within the full song and it becomes much less bewildering and readily identifiable. Here is a 2 min sequence from another bird see if you can pick up some of these patterns and maybe spot some of your own:

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The alarm call is  a harsh tone which I have never recorded, but I did once watch a Nightingale making this gentle anxiety call when I had approached too near.

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