Category Archives: Animal Sounds

Weekly Puzzler Answer #150

Did you recognize the odd-looking creature in last week’s puzzler? It is a Cicada exuvia or shed skin. Some insects, like cicadas, go through incomplete or gradual metamorphosis. This means that they have 3 stages–egg, larva or nymph and then winged adult. Their transformation from larva to adult is extraordinary!

c-3586If you live in western NC and have been through Arden or Skyland in recent days, you’ve probably heard the deafening drone of cicadas in the treetops. And these are not your regular, ordinary dog-day cicadas, these are the amazingly long-lived 17-year cicadas or periodical cicadas.

Here is what they sound like.

Can you imagine living underground in the soil for 17 years? During this time you never see the light of day. You spend your time sucking sap from the roots of a tree, growing and sleeping. Sound fun? Imagine the changes the world can produce in 17 years! When I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail I came upon an emergence of the 17 year cicada. It was one of the most incredible natural moments I have witnessed. You can read more about it here. 

I used to think cicadas were had the longest lifecycle of any insect, but I have since discovered that is not true. They ARE the longest lived insect in North America, but not the world. Long-horned beetle larva, which live in dead wood, can remain there for 35-50 years before emerging as an adult. But they are not the longest lived either, amazingly! That award goes to the African queen termite who can live for more than 50 years, though some scientists suspect they live closer to 100 years. Imagine!! Such a tiny creature living so long.

Amazingly, scientists actually know where and when our periodical cicadas are going to emerge and have the broods named. If you live in the eastern US and want to know when a 17-year emergence will occur, you can put in your zip code on this site and see a map giving the locations.

There are also what people refer to as dog-day cicadas that live in these same places and have shorter life cycles. They are most likely the ones you hear towards the end of the summer. Their time underground in only 2-5 years, not 17! And they sound and look a bit different too. Some years ago I did a puzzler featuring dog-day cicadas, and then another featuring 10 things you may not know about cicadas.

That’s it for me for now. Have a good weekend. See you again soon!

Weekly Puzzler Answer #146

Did you know the answer to last week’s puzzler? Did you recognize the “meow, meow” calls in there that are distinctive to the Gray Catbird? Is this a bird you’ve seen before?


The Gray Catbird, as you can see from its picture, is a plain, dark gray bird with a black cap and a long black tail, that it often cocks, allowing you to see the chestnut under tail coverlets. They are common throughout most of the United States.

Notice the black cap

Notice the black cap

Like Northern Mockingbirds and Brown Thrashers, they are great mimics. Northern Mockingbirds repeat the various sounds for 4-6 times, Brown Thrashers for 2-3 times and then Gray Catbirds, who repeat the different songs in a much less organized fashion, with plenty of their characteristic mews in between.

Here you can see the chestnut under its cocked tail

Here you can see the chestnut under its cocked tail

Ready for another puzzler? Here’s the next one.

Have a great weekend. I will see you again soon!

Weekly Puzzler #146: Another Mimic

Hey all and happy weekend to you! It’s amazing that this is the last weekend of April and we’re only two days away from May.

As you likely know, last week’s puzzler was a Northern Mockingbird, a wonderful mimic of bird and frog songs. Here’s another mimic–see if you can determine the difference between the mockingbird and this one. What bird is it?

Check back next weekend to learn the answer. And as always, use the comment box below to offer your guess. All correct answers will be entered in a drawing for a free photo prize from me–given away on the first day of summer. You have to be in it to win it! Good luck. See you again soon.

Weekly Puzzler Answer #145

Did you recognize the insistent calls in last week’s puzzler as ambird-2 Northern Mockingbird? If you’ve ever had one of these in your yard, looking for a mate, you know how persistent they can be!

They are masters at mimicking the calls of other birds, from robins, to blue jays, to towhees and everything in between. A male in his territory will repeat a bird call–say an American robin–2-6 times before switching to another bird’s call. They may go on for 10-15 different bird songs. They will also mimic frog songs, and some even mimic human-made sounds like doors opening or car alarms. They are really amazing when they get on a roll!

Watch this bird, which I captured recently at The North Carolina Arboretum, going through his repertoire of sounds:

Here’s the next puzzler, another bird song you may have heard while you were outside enjoying the sounds and sights of spring.

Have a great weekend and see you again soon!

Weekly Puzzler #145: Name that Bird!

So last week’s puzzler was a bird song–one of our most lovely, the Carolina Wren. I thought I would do another bird, this one common throughout much of North America, especially the southeast, and west to California. If this bird hasn’t found a mate, it might get desperate–much to the dismay of homeowners everywhere– and sing in the middle of the night–not bothering to wait until sunrise.

Listen here. Then give your guess using the comment box below.

Weekly Puzzler #144: Bubbling Song

Listen to this bird’s song.

Do you recognize it?

Check back next weekend to see if your guess was correct! And don’t forget to use the comment box below to give your guess. I give away a prize to one subscriber each quarter. All correct answers will be entered in the drawing–drawings are the first day of each season, so summer will be the next drawing. Good luck and see you again soon.

Weekly Puzzler Answer #116

First off, congratulations to Renee who was the winner of my Weekly Puzzler contest! Earlier this week I sent her one of my blank notebooks.

A new contest starts today! All you have to do is use the comment box below the puzzler to give your guess. All correct guesses will automatically be entered in the next drawing–way far away, on the first day of Fall! The more times you enter, the more chances you have to win!

So then, let’s look at last week’s puzzler. Did you know this bird? It is the song of an eastern towhee! They are famous for saying “Drink your teaaaaaa!” Can you hear this phrase in their song?

Here’s what one looks like.today33-8141

Have you ever seen or heard this bird in your neighborhood?


Eastern towhees are birds of the undergrowth, often seen shuffling through the leaf litter looking for good things to eat. Their diet includes seeds, fruit, buds, insects, spiders, millipedes, and other invertebrates. They live year-round in the southeastern US, but also can be seen during the summers in the northeast.

Click HERE to check out the next puzzler! (And your first chance to be entered in the next drawing!)