Borneo

The weird and fascinating sound of empress cicadas

Sabah’s rainforests
Recordist: George Vlad
Habitat: Tropical Rainforest
Recommended Charity: Trees For the Future
Notes:

The Empress cicada starts calling as the sun sets, just as daytime birds are winding down their calls and nighttime creatures are waking up. You first hear distant ones, and it almost sounds like some industrial metal cutting process. As other individuals start calling, you realise you’re surrounded by these harsh, electronic sounds that become progressively louder until the soundscape is almost deafening. It’s a painfully intense chorus that at this stage does not sound natural anymore, but is still weirdly enjoyable. All this usually lasts for 30 to 60 minutes, and then other cicadas, katydids and crickets take over the soundscape. Tree hole frogs soon join the insects as well. These are interesting and exciting in their own right, but hearing them after the Empress cicada almost makes them seem bland.

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