nightingale, common name for a migratory Old World bird of the family Turdidae (thrush family), celebrated for its vocal powers. The common nightingale of England and Western Europe, Luscinia megarhynchos, is about 61/2 in. (16.3 cm) long, reddish-brown above and grayish-white below. It winters in Africa and reaches England about mid-April. Its famous song is delivered only by the male during the breeding season, at any time of day or night. A larger species is found in Eastern Europe. The bulbul, a prodigious songster of Persian literature, was once thought to be a nightingale but has been identified with another family; the Virginia nightingale is a grosbeak; and the Pekin, or Japanese, nightingale belongs to the babbler family. Nightingales are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Turdidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.