north american nightingale?
August 13, 2011 8:03 AM   Subscribe

What species fills the nightingale's niche in North America?

For some odd reason I surfed onto the nightingale in English literature dope on the wikipedia yesterday and spent a couple of delightful hours reading poems, and listening to the recordings at this link:

internet bird collection nightingale

There is a (possibly apocryphal) biology principle that life eventually fills into all possible ecolgical niches. Lovejoy's Great Chain of Being or something like that. Anyway, there aren't any nightingales in North America. Is there a close equivalent species? Is there room in the literature to fill with odes to mockingbirds or something like that? Or does it already exist and I just have never seen it?
posted by bukvich to Pets & Animals (3 answers total)
Are you asking about ecological niches or literary niches? afaik, the nightingale appears in so much literature not because it fulfills a particularly interesting ecological niche, but because people are attracted to its song. The closest north american literary equivalent I can think of off the top of my head is the whippoorwill, but I'm probably missing something obvious or regional.

not sure if this was what you were looking for with your question or not...
posted by geegollygosh at 9:01 AM on August 13, 2011

The description of the nightingale's life-cycle on the Wikipedia page says that it's a migratory, primarily insectivorous bird that sings at night as well as during the day. Ecologically, this sounds very similar to the Northern Mockingbird, though I'm by no means an expert ecologist.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:10 AM on August 13, 2011

Well, not sure if this is an answer or more of a commentary on what you asked, but some do indeed appreciate the mockingbird and compare it favorably to the nightingale, and they are written about (see below). However, they also can be very annoying when the males looking to mate sing throughout the night (we know this from sad personal experience). Also, their habit of imitation (car alarms , cats, etc.) can be amusing and annoying, and makes them not quite like the nightingale. I am thinking whippoorwill as well.

Atticus said to Jem, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever hear Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “You’re father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” – Scout. - To Kill a Mockingbird

Listen to the Mockingbird
posted by gudrun at 11:14 AM on August 13, 2011

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