(Motacilla Luscinia, Linn.—La Rossignol, Buff.)
THIS bird, so universally esteemed for the excellence of tis song, is not remarkable for the variety or richness of its plumage. It is somewhat more than six inches in length. The bill brown, yellow on the edges at the base; eyes hazel; the whole upper part of the body rusty brown, tinged with olive; the under parts pale ash, almost white at the throat and vent; the quills brown, with reddish margins: legs pale brown. The male and female are very similar.
Although the Nightingale is common in this country, it never visits the northern parts of our island, and is but seldom seen in the western counties of Devonshire and Cornwall: it leaves us sometime in the month of August, and makes its regular return in the beginning of April; it is supposed, during that interval, to visit the distant regions of Asia; this is probable, as these birds do not winter in any part of France, Germany, Italy, Greece, &c. neither does it appear that they stay in Africa, but are seen at all times in India, Persia, China, and Japan; in the latter country they are much esteemed for their song, and sell at great prices. They are spread generally throughout Europe, even as far north as Siberia and Sweden, where they are said to sing delightfully; they, however, are partial to particular places, and avoid others which seem as likely to afford them the necessary means of support. It is not improbable, however, that by planting a colony in a well-chosen situation, these charming songsters might be induced to haunt places where they are not at present seen; the experiment might be easily tried, and should it succeed, the reward would be great in the rich and varied song of this unrivalled bird. Milton gives us the following beautiful description:—
And the mute silence hist along,
'Less Philomel will deign a song,
In her sweetest, saddest plight,
Smoothing the rugged brow of night,
While Cynthia checks her dragon yoke,
Gently o'er the accustomed oak:
Sweet bird that shunn'st the noise of folly,
Most musical, most melancholy!
Thee, chauntress, oft the woods among,
I woo to hear thy evening song:
Nightingales begin to build about the end of April or the beginning of May; they make their nest in the lower part of a thick bush or hedge; the female lays four or five eggs of a greenish brown colour. The nest is composed of dry grass and leaves, intermixed with small fibres, and lined with hair, down, and other soft and warm substances. The business of incubation is entirely performed by the female, whilst the male, at no great distance, entertains her with his delightful melody: as soon, however, as the young are hatched, he leaves off singing, and joins her in the care of providing for them. These birds make a second hatch, and sometimes a third; and in hot countries they are said to have four.
The Nightingale is a solitary bird, and never unites in flocks like many of the smaller birds, but hides itself in the thickest parts of the bushes, and sings generally in the night: its food consists principally of insects, small worms, eggs of ants, and sometimes berries of various kinds. Though timorous and shy, they are easily caught; lime twigs and snares of all sorts are laid for them, and generally succeed. Young ones are sometimes brought up from the nest, and fed with great care till they are able to sing. It is with great difficulty that old birds are induced to sing after being taken; for a considerable time they refuse to eat, but by great attention to their treatment, and avoiding every thing that might agitate them, they at length resume their song, and continue it during the greater part of the year.
Page last modified 10/6/2000.
These pages are best viewed/printed with Internet Explorer, the browser that you're not using right now....
Like this page? Let me know. Hate it? Let me know that too. Click here to offer feedback.
©1999-2002 The edited materials, images, and photographs on this site should not be reproduced without the written permission of Peter Friesen. Contact email@example.com for information.