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rowenaz's avatar

what makes that clicking noise in the trees?

Asked by rowenaz (2426 points ) September 27th, 2007

At night there is a loud fast clicking, like someone rubbing a stick on a serrated surface, that comes from the bushes or the trees. It goes, “zzzzziiiip! zzzzIiiiipppp!!” Insect? Frog

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36 Answers

brownlemur's avatar

Where do you live? Is it high pitched or low pitched? Neither? Can you describe it better? Does it sound like one animal or many?

gailcalled's avatar

Here in the NE, at 9:30 PM I hear the insect zzzing (loud) of the cicadas. They are in trees all around me…We are having an Indian summer now, hot and sticky.

You can hear the song of one species at cicada

gailcalled's avatar

Hard to ID pitch.( What is the pitch of a ticking clock?) On the lowish range of audibility but very noisy.

Hudson707's avatar

it sounds like a locus.

gailcalled's avatar

A locust is a member of the grasshopper family; cicadas more common, and noisier.

jca's avatar

could be crickets, no?

brownlemur's avatar

Whatever it is, it sounds like it will be difficult to find, as these insects make high frequency calls. Calls that have a frequency higher than around 20,000 Hz fall out of the human range of hearing, and I’m only guessing that cicada calls, although not that high, are pretty high. The higher the frequency of a call, the more difficult it is to localize due to things like human interaural distance and the fact that high frequency sounds effectively “bounce” off of many things in the environment, giving the sound a ventriloquial characteristic. (Think of a songbird giving off a high-pitched alarm call in the presence of a hawk – it has a really high frequency and it is really hard to localize.) So whatever is making the sound, it will probably be really hard to find. Think about it – how often have you found a cicada when you’re looking for it? I hope that helps!

rowenaz's avatar

Nope, not a cicada. Remember those wooden instruments we used to get in music class? and you’d take the little wooden hammer and drag it across the bumpy surface of another piece of wood? That’s the exact sound.

I’m in the northeast. It’s really loud – only after dusk.

gooch's avatar

geckos

gailcalled's avatar

No geckos in NE,( yet), Gooch. But what about katydids? No one ever sees these guys (unless there is the 17 yr swarm) but the evening noise is dramatic, whatever insect is making it. And finding a direction of noise source is impossible, as brown lemur points out.

rowenaz's avatar

I checked the Katydid sounds, and it’s not that. I’ll check black crickets…. it’s not cicadas.

gailcalled's avatar

I just called the Cornell Agricultural Extension in my county and left a message for the master gardener who comes in on Mon. The woman who answered the phone suggested tree frogs…Not that I have a life to lead or anything, outside of this interesting question. Master garden will return my call, in theory.

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s a call of the hylix crucifer (NE tree frog.) A bit loud, unless a biologist gave the mic to a 200 lb frog.

Tree frog noise

brownlemur's avatar

That sounds about right Gail. Frogs can be notoriously loud. Take the coqui from the Yunque forest in Costa Rica – calls can reach intensities of 90–95 dB SPL (really really loud), which is almost louder than any organism. Cicadas, by comparison, vocalize at around 60–86 dB SPL. dB SPL = decibels at sound pressure level.

rowenaz's avatar

Now I’ve got the sound – it’s a deep noise, like when you pull your finger across a comb – but not high pitched – really low, like wood. I went to the USGS web site about frogs, and listened to tons – the closest was a northern leopard frog…but still this sound is deeper.

gailcalled's avatar

Ribbit! Keep me posted :-)

gailcalled's avatar

20 degrees cooler tonight than last night and sounds (probably some kind of frog) are much weaker. I just listened to the northern leopard frog. Odd to hear it coming out of the computer. Where do you live? Is there a college or University nearby w. an Aggie dept that you can call?

rowenaz's avatar

I’m in Connecticut – no Aggie Dept near here.

gailcalled's avatar

Check out the U. Conn, (Storrs) home page and contact info. They have a HUGE dept of Animal Science. Frogs

I bet that there is someone who can answer your question.

gailcalled's avatar

Link to article about peepers by U Conn prof of ecology and evolutionary bio (Kentwood Wells), author of THE ECOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR OF AMPHIBIANS:
Ribbit

gailcalled's avatar

Eureka, I think. One of the Master Gardeners at the Cornell Aggie extension here just called back in re; my question about this. He said that it was surely the common eastern black cricket, who makes the noise mechanically (and not vocally) by rubbing his legs together, very much like description above of rubbing a stick on a serrated surface. It is not a pest, I learned, just noisy. The peepers make their noise in spring and early summer, in hopes of finding the mate w. just the right decible.

The guy did ask me whether I lived near a pond, which I do.

patcat's avatar

i hear ticking in trees here in the midwest at night.

taps's avatar

I’ve been hearing ticking in the trees at night too. I’m in WI. I’ve been searching and I think I have found the sound you have been looking for. It is the Anglewing insect that looks just like a leaf. I have seen it but never knew it was the one that made this sound.
There are two kinds.

Greater Anglewing

Lesser Anglewing

Here is the web site for more insect sounds if these aren’t right—http://www.musicofnature.com/songsofinsects/iframes/leafmimics/leafmimics.html

You can go onto other pages to check out other sounds.

I hope this is what you are looking for!

ETA: Sorry, I guess I didn’t do the links correctly. You will have to just copy the web page.

rowenaz's avatar

That’s a great website, and I went through each of the insects. The sound is similar, but it would have to slowed down to be the noise that is clicking. I mean REALLY slowed down. I also looked into the tree frog sounds from the web sites, too. Thank you though, I am still looking.

patcat's avatar

believe “clicking” to be communication from possum, maybe racoon. I feed them at night and I think they’re reminding me to feed. I hear the “clicking” in the fridgid winter, so I know it’s not insects. patcat

patcat's avatar

during ongoing personal harassment, “perps” remove vehicle emblems, ford datsun etc. for what purpose is this action significant? patcat

wingnutnan's avatar

we hear it in ontario too 2 trees now, in winter high up in the tree not a big tree, a low noise clicking, like a woodpecker trapped inside, a tap tap tap taptap, beat then it stops , tried tappin back to it it does nt talk back though, perhaps its an extra terrestial,

cjmarek's avatar

I just came in from investigating the night sound. I kinda thought it may turn out to be a tree frog, but that did not seem too likely because of the absence of nearby water. It is way too early in the year for cicadas. I used a flashlight to try and spot the sound source. This proved difficult to pinpoint. Eventually I saw a green katydidish insect. But it was shorter and stubbier than the katydids I am familiar with. At least the same body weight of a katydid. (I live in Austin Texas by the way). This was definitely the source of the sound. I could see the stubby wings vibrate at the same time the sound was being made. It does not appear to use its jumping legs at all to make the sound. Amazingly, the sound seems not to be coming directly from the insect. Kinda like a ventiloquist. Real hard to find because the sound was way up in the top of the trees. These were newly planted trees out in a field, and I eventually found a shorter tree that was easier to search.

rowenaz's avatar

Not a katydid.

rowenaz's avatar

I think it’s a Northern Leopard Tree Frog. This is similar to the sound, but only the beginning part. Just the clicking, because I don’t hear the rest.
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/northern-leopard-frog.html

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
crimsonangie83's avatar

Clicking noise in trees? O_O

myxococcus's avatar

It’s an Eyed Click Beetle (http://massnrc.org/pests/blog/2009/06/eyed-click-beetle-another-alb-look-alike.html) an introduced pest. It has a segmented body that can rapidly snap back to produce the mechanical, sharp clicking noise—either to ward off predators or to right itself if it is flipped over.

Centralia62801's avatar

I heard the same thing. I live in southern Illinois and it was dark outside last night. I went to get my clothes off the line and heard an evil frog sound.. It sounded like a frog but scary.. hard to describe. It only made the noise when I walked near my husbands car but stopped when I backed away. I ran in the house and got the flash light. I heard the sound again and followed it. It was a HUGE leaf bug, it was on the order of a katydid but had a higher back on it. I ran in the house and my brothers g/f came out and said she loves leaf bugs but never knew they made a sound. I warned her it was ear piercing loud. She goes over to pick it up and it used its wings to make the horrible noise… It jumped and I threw my basket and ran… It does not sound like a katydid but it looks similar but bigger. Any ideas? It was light colored green.

xdeeterx's avatar

I live in MA and I constantly hear a similar ‘clicking sound’. It seems to be mostly at night and comes from several different trees in the area.
The best way I can describe the noise is very similar to the sound produced on a child’s bicycle if they had put a playing card in the spokes. It is a loud series of CLICKS that slowly increases in ‘speed’ as if the kid had begun riding and slowly picked up a little speed.
I found the answer I wanted on the post from PATCAT which included this link:

http://www.musicofnature.com/songsofinsects/iframes/leafmimics/leafmimics.html

Clicked on the first picture and at first it sounds like crickets but after a few seconds the exact sound I hear at night comes through loud and clear. I know this post originated from someone in CT and being in MA (right on the edge closest to CT) I hope this helps!

Thank you PATCAT for your post!

mlane1987's avatar

i keep hearing a low pitched clicking sound in the trees here in central illinois its not like a click click like a bat might make but like a clickclickclick noise an insect might make but they stop and start much quicker than i thought cicadas would do (they seem to usually have a constant chirp where this is much more broken up) what is this scary noise?!

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