The nightingale, our virtuoso of the beautiful season

The nightingale, our virtuoso of the beautiful season

The nightingale, a formidable nocturnal soloist, is synonymous with the mating season. But all year round, it is the symbol of vocal talent and poetry.

Presentation of this passerine
The nightingale is a passerine of the Muscicapidae family, which includes small to medium-sized passerines.

The passerines? They represent half of the birds and are characterized by their song, their agile flight, their life in flock, their intelligence. And also by their four-toed legs, one of which is directed backwards to perch (anisodactyl).

Nightingale: how to recognize it?

A plumage in the form of camouflage
Like other songbirds, the nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) has a rather dull and inconspicuous plumage: the upper side is reddish-brown, the underside between whitish and brownish, and the rump and the tail are a little darker. Its large black eye is circled with whitish.

The female has an even duller plumage. Only the young nightingales have a spotted plumage. In short, the plumage of the nightingale is of the order of camouflage, which corresponds well to its temperament.

Neither robin nor sparrow
If its rounded body is reminiscent of the robin, it does not have the colors. As for the house sparrow, it is a little bigger than him: between 18 and 27 grams for a 24 cm wingspan.

Nightingale, its famous night song

With the blackbird, it is one of the rare birds to also sing at night. A melodious song which made its reputation. And one of the most complex: between 120 and 260 different sequences of two to four seconds.

This passerine knows how to make the difference between day and night: at night, the single male sings to court the female, which he easily does for a whole night! Once in couple, in general after two to three nights, radio silence, it does not sing any more in the moonlight. He resumes his singing during the day, which is used by all males to mark their territory and preserve it from intruders.

The male learns to sing by listening to his elders: simple. Then, he knows perfectly “gringotter”, “quiritter” or make these trills.

Nightingale, feeding at ground level
This passerine is insectivorous, small insects, spiders, but also all the fauna that lives in the low vegetation, under the cover of shrubs and bushes (worms, snails, spiders).

In autumn, it also feeds on berries, to stock up on food when it migrates south.

An incredible songbird!

Nightingale, its nesting

After the male has stopped singing in the moonlight, the female lays four to five blue-green eggs speckled with brown, between May and June and in the nest she has built often on the ground, in the hollow of a bush. A sober nest, made of leaves and dry grass.

The incubation lasts thirteen days. After eleven days, the young nightingales have their plumage. Three weeks later, they are autonomous.

What is its range?

If it settles willingly near a water point, you will not see nightingales in Brittany and Normandy, regions too wet for him. As far as temperatures are concerned, there are no nightingales either in Auvergne above 850 meters, and in the southern Alps above 1300 meters.

Hot and dry, the nightingale is a “Club Med” bird: if it is present on the five continents, everything depends strictly on temperature and rainfall.

A seasonal migrant

In our country, the presence of the nightingale is always too ephemeral: its arrival in mid-April announces the beautiful season, but its departure every autumn signals the end of it. This passerine is a sign of the arrival of the good season. As soon as this one is over, bye-bye and see you next year maybe.

For the nightingales present in France, crossing the Mediterranean represents a too important maritime distance: they thus pass by the Strait of Gibraltar, to remain with the maximum above the ground. Then, direction sub-Saharan Africa.

Nightingale but not only bird

The ” philomèle ” (nightingale)
It is our nightingale since antiquity: Philomela having been raped by Tereus, her brother-in-law, will be transformed into a nightingale and sing its laments ad vitam aeternam. A myth was taken up by Ovid in the Metamorphoses.

From the “junk” in slang

When it sings at night, this formidable soloist that is the single nightingale perches: so much so that the name of nightingale has been attributed to worthless or even defective objects, stored on top of the shelves of stores.

The Milanese nightingale

You have the adventures of Tintin: nicknamed the “Milanese nightingale”, Bianca Castafiore is the only singer in all the Tintin albums. Accompanied by her pianist Igor Wagner and her cameraman Irma, she sings the aria of the jewels sung by Marguerite in Faust, opera of Charles Gounod. Okay, not to Tintin’s taste, and even less to Captain Haddock, whom she pursues with her assiduity.

Rossignol, why skis?

In the past, skis were made by carpenters: in 1907, Abel Rossignol, who made tools for the textile industry in his workshop in Voiron, had the idea to polish his own pair of “boards”. The Olympic skis were born, until their replacement by metal skis by Jean Vuarnet.