Nightingales can really belt out a song -- sometimes at volumes louder than the buzz of a chainsaw -- but what you may be hearing are males just trying to attract mates and mark their turf. Nightingales want to be heard over rival males, and sometimes they also need to amp up their voices to be heard over the din of today's urban landscape.
In a study by the Free University of Berlin, researchers found that in Germany, male nightingales sing most frequently and most loudly in May, after returning from their winter migration to Africa. The study found that the birds can increase the volume of their singing by 14 decibels in response to competing noise, such as Berlin's heavy traffic. The highest test reading was 95 decibels -- a level at which German workers are required to wear hearing protection.
Other facts about noisy nightingales:
- The nightingale can often be heard singing at dawn, but as its name suggests, the birds are also active at night.
- Nightingales are easily heard but they are not so easily found. They prefer to keep out of sight in dense foliage.
- Prolonged exposure to noise above 80 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss.