Nightingales and Thrushes

Nightingale by Brian Winter

About the Nightingale

This bird is so special because its song is utterly different! Being medium small, plain and  brown it seems really unremarkable until those magical sounds start! See below for a recording.

In southern Europe these birds are really quite common but in the UK the numbers have been declining so fast partly due to habitat loss. In some places like the Chiddingfold forest management is sympathetic. Research by the British Trust for Ornithology is helping to advise how to maintain populations.

The nightingale, a summer visitor, appears in the second week of April and starts singing as soon as it arrives. Unpaired male birds sing into the night trying to attract females. By the end of May it becomes much more difficult to hear them. Seeing them is a real challenge, unlike many species like the song thrush that sings from the highest trees, the nightingale sings from the deepest thicket without moving. A glimpse is your most likely success!

The nightingales depart our shores in July and August so their stay is not long! See more here 

Here is a sample of the song

The Song Thrush

The song thrush is a common resident bird a bit bigger than a nightingale. Usually solitary or in pairs it has a special song consisting of variable tuneful sounds often repeated several times. It will sing loudly from the top of tall trees.

The song thrush is nothing like the nightingale to look at but its variable sounds can cause some confusion so knowing about the high perches should help.

Visually, the song thrush is most likely to be confused with its family member the mistle thrush. But again the song is a good distinguishing factor.

See more about the song thrush here 

Here is a sample of the song

The Mistle Thrush

Another less common resident bird but still fairly numerous. Its song is most likely to be confused with the blackbird (which is another member of the thrush family). The chattering alarm call is often heard, especially near trees with mistletoe, after which they have been named! It also sings from the tops of trees and is known in folklore as a storm cock due to its liking to sing ahead of summer and autumn storms.

You shouldn't confuse this song with a nightingale or a song thrush. Visually, it is very similar to the song thrush but it is less round in shape much duller colours and messier spots. Under the wings, easy to see when they fly, the song thrush has bright orange patches while the mistle thrush shows pure white. 

Read more about the mistle thrush here. 

Here is a sample of the song.

And here is the alarm call - song thrush is much quieter and rarely heard.