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THE NIGHTINGALE.

{Philomela luscinia.)

T N common with one or two allied species, the Nightingale differs so materially in structure and habits from the garden or fruiteating warblers {Sylvia), with which it has been generally associated, that most naturalists nowadays are agreed in regarding it as the type of a separate genus {Philomela). For want of a better English name, and as indicating their haunt, the members of this genus may be called " thicket warblers." As regards structure, they differ from the Garden Warblers in having the bill less compressed towards the tip, and wider near the gape; the legs much longer and not scutellated, the toes more adapted for walking than perching. In habits they are more retired, concealing themselves in thickets and copses, living a good deal on the ground, where they find the principal portion of their food, and building a loosely-constructed nest on or near the ground, instead of a more compact structure at a distance from it.

The sole representative of this genus in England is the far-famed Nightingale; and of all the summer migrants to this country, no species probably has attracted more attention, or given rise to more speculation and discussion amongst naturalists. The most remarkable fact in connection with its annual sojourn in England is its very partial distribution. When we find this bird in summer as far to the westward as Spain and Portugal, and as far to the northward as Sweden, we may well be surprised at its absence from Wales, Ireland,

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and Scotland; and yet it is the fact that the boundary line, over which it seldom if ever flies, excludes it from Cornwall, West Devon; part of Somerset, Gloucester, and Hereford; the whole of Wales (d fortiori from Ireland), part of Shropshire, the whole of Cheshire, Westmoreland, Cumberland, Durham, and Northumberland. I am well aware that the Nightingale has been stated to have been heard and seen in Wales, Cumberland, and even in Mid-Lothian (see "Zoologist," p. 241); but, even if they could be relied on in every case, which is doubtful, these instances can only be regarded as exceptional. In those counties only to the east of the line indicated can the bird be considered a regular summer visitant. Mr. Blyth has expressed the opinion1 that the Nightingale migrates almost due north and south, deviating but a very little indeed either to the right or left. "There are none in Brittany," he says, "nor in the Channel Islands,

1 Note to his edition of White's " Selborne," 1836, p. 141. and the most westward of them probably cross the Channel at Cape la Hogue, arriving on the coast of Dorsetshire, and thence apparently proceeding northwards, rather than dispersing towards the west; so that they are only known as accidental stragglers a little beyond the third degree of western longitude." They arrive generally about the end of the second week in April, and it is a well-ascertained fact that the males invariably precede the females by several days. In 1867 three London birdcatchers, between April 13 and May 2, took 225 Nightingales, and the whole of these, with five or six exceptions only, were cock birds. The previous year these same bird-catchers had supplied the dealer by whom they were employed with 280 Nightingales, of which not more than sixty were hens. From these statistics we may infer that in no locality would Nightingales be more plentiful if unmolested than in the neighbourhood of London; but if one dealer only is instrumental in capturing between 200 and 300 in the season, it is easy to account for the scarcity of the species. On the arrival of the hen birds the cocks soon pair, and assist in building, during which time, and during the time the hens are sitting, they are in full song. When the young are hatched the males leave off singing, and busy themselves in bringing food to the nest.

The song generally ceases before the end of the first week in June. Occasionally, however, I have heard a Nightingale sing on throughout June, but accounted for this by supposing that the nest had been robbed, and that the cock was singing while the hen hatched a second brood. Naturalists who live in London need not travel more than five miles from Charing Cross to hear the Nightingale in full song. Nay, a friend who is well acquainted with the note, has heard the bird frequently in Victoria Park, which is only two miles distant from the Bank of England, and on several occasions attentive observers have recognized the unmistakable notes of the Nightingale in the Botanical Gardens, Regent's Park, and in Kensington Gardens.

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