In your travels to a distant national park or from your own backyard, have you ever heard a strange nighttime sound? Whistling, screeching, howling, clicking, buzzing and things that go “bump” in the night have kept many a camper wide-eyed and sleepless. We humans are not at our best in the dark of night. If we can’t see it, we don’t like it.
Insects, amphibians, mammals and birds make themselves heard at night. No need being scared out of your wits unnecessarily. I thought I’d provide you a brief sampling of some nighttime sounds to change the “frightening” to “identifiable”. Once you know what you are listening to and decide you don’t like it, then you have my permission to be frightened.
Insects can fill a summer night with pleasant music. Members of the Orthoptera family are primarily responsible. These include crickets, grasshoppers and katydids. The following insect recordings are from the Singing Insects of North America (SINA) website. This fantastic site is still being compiled and is a great library of sounds. Click on the animal name to hear their recognizable sounds.
Southern Ground Cricket (Allonemobius socius) This is one of 900 species of crickets. Only the male cricket makes noise. It is done by rubbing the row of teeth-like ridges on the edge of a wing against the other wing edge. The wings themselves act as sounding boards.
Snowy Tree Cricket (Oecanthus fultoni) The chirping rate of this cricket can tell you the air temperature. The temperature in Fahrenheit is calculated by counting the number of chirps in 14 seconds and adding 40.
Katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia) There are roughly 6,400 species of katydids, but this is called the Common True Katydid and one that you might recognize.
Northern Mole Cricket (Neocurtilla hexadactyla) The northern mole cricket burrows underground and comes out to chirp at the entrance of its burrow.
The following amphibian recordings all take you to one website, where you can hear these and more, thanks to Michael Benard. His excellent collection of photos and recordings are for reference and enjoyment.
Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) This arboreal frog is probably quite familiar to you if you live in the Eastern US; if not by his appearance, then by his song. Gray treefrogs can camouflage themselves according to the substrate they are sitting on almost as well as a chameleon. So anything from green to gray are normal on their mottled, warty skin. You’ll probably hear a number of treefrogs chorusing from treetops throughout the midsummer night.
Other frogs and toads are commonly heard in the spring during their breeding season.
Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) This little fellow ( yes, only the male sounds off) is heard in the spring when it is calling for mating rights from nearby marshes, streams, and ponds.
Green Frog (Rana clamitans) is abundant in the eastern US in pretty much any fresh body of water.
The following mammal and bird recordings are from Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.
White-tailed deer snorting – usually silent, deer may give a loud air-filled snort when alarmed.
Raccoon - an adult male
Coyote - howls and whines from a pack
American alligator – listen to the low rumbling and disregard the bird
Barred owl – A mnemonic for this nighttime singer almost sounds like, “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”. When two call at each other, people mistake them for monkeys, but of course no monkeys live in North America where these birds reside.
Barn owl – this spooky sounding character has the white color of a ghost to boot.
Of course this is not a complete list by any stretch. It is however, a fun sampling to help you become more atuned to what is happening in nature when humans are generally “out of it”. This concert will make a night around the campfire, on the back porch or in your tent an entertaining adventure.
Be aware that all rights are reserved for all these recordings. The sounds are property of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, Singing Insects of North America, and Michael Benard and can only be used for personal listening. Any other use requires you to contact them directly for permission.
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