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Luscinia luscinia (Thrush nightingale) 

Lysternagtegaal [Afrikaans]; Noordse nachtegaal [Dutch]; Rossignol progné [French]; Sprosser [German]; Rouxinol-russo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Muscicapidae

Luscinia luscinia (Thrush nightingale) Luscinia luscinia (Thrush nightingale)

Thrush nightingale, Lower Sabie, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Its breeding grounds stretch from northern and eastern Europe to western Siberia; in the non-breeding season it heads south through the Sahara Desert to Ethiopia through Kenya and Tanzania to Zambia and southern Africa. Here it is locally common but quiet and unobtrusive, mainly occurring in Zimbabwe but extending to Mozambique, the Caprivi Strip (Namibia) and north-central Botswana, with isolated records in north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers dense, tangled thickets in riparian woodland, especially with Acacia, Brandybush grewia (Grewia flava), and Caper-bush (Capparis tomentosa); it may also occupy suburban gardens.

Distribution of Thrush nightingale in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

It departs from its breeding grounds in early August, eventually getting to southern Africa around late December-January, making it one of the latest arriving migrants recorded in the region. It mainly departs in late March, eventually arriving at its breeding grounds in the period from late April to mid May.


It does most of its foraging in the leaf litter, flicking through leaves and plant debris in search of arthropods and occasionally eating small, soft berries.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.