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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Natures Nightly Number


If you are like me, you enjoy sitting in your back yard on nice spring and summer evenings. But even in the small town that I live in it is far from quiet. Sitting on my porch or patio, I can hear a number of noises and most of them are not man made.

In the spring and early summer, there are lots of noises to listen to, and it is pleasant to sit on a cool night and just listen to the music that is made by a number of animals that are around you at night. Frogs and toads are active in the evening and can be heard from quite a distance. There are 21 species of frogs and toads found in Illinois and many of them are easily identified simply by their call. Here are a few that you can pay attention to and identify.

The Chorus Frog - Though there are a couple of species (Western Chorus and the Upland Chorus frog), they have similar calls. Take a plastic comb and run your finger down the teeth of the comb. This is the sound that chorus frogs make. They are commonly heard throughout Illinois.

Treefrogs - There are two species found in Illinois (Cope's Grey Treefrog and Grey Treefrog). These seem to be the most common frogs that I have heard this year. Their call sounds like a monotone trill, raspy and faster for the Cope's and a more musical trill for the Grey Treefrog. My neighbor describes their call as a calm quiet cicada.

American Toad - The call of the American toad is a high to medium pitched trill that seems to last forever.

American Bullfrog - If you hear what sounds like a cow with a chest cold, you might be hearing an American Bullfrog. They have a low hum that starts higher and ends in a lower pitch.

Green Frog - This is one of the most distinct sounding frogs. It sounds like a rubber band being plucked. The sound is similar to what a shoe box guitar makes.

As the summer progresses, most other sounds are drowned out by the call of what should be the Illinois insect, the cicada. We all recognize this sound and some years it is infuriating how loud it is. The constant harsh rise and fall of the cicada is the sound of summer in Illinois.

As you spend time outside, there is a musical quality to the many sounds of nature. When you sit outside, take some time and listen. You might just hear Natures Nightly Number.



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