Sound Ideas: Prairie Cicada

by Carl Strang

Back in early July I first encountered a species I then called the short-grass prairie cicada (Okanagana balli). Its more commonly used English name has proven to be simply “prairie cicada.”

Prairie cicada. These are little guys, about an inch long.

Prairie cicada. These are little guys, about an inch long.

Here is one of the recordings of its song that I made at Woodworth Prairie:


The song doesn’t change, so you may decide not to hear all of the recording, though if you listen carefully toward the beginning you may hear a more distant individual when the recording’s main subject pauses. The song was loud enough that someone with younger ears, or me with the SongFinder pitch-reducing device, could hear it from more than 100 feet away. Unaided I needed to be within 20 feet or so.

The song is continuous, and simple, but there are so few other insects singing in late June or early July in the prairies that there is no confusion. Females clearly have no problem homing in on the singing males.

Prairie cicadas preparing to mate.

Prairie cicadas preparing to mate.

I have made a list of places in several counties where I will be seeking this species next year. I want to test the hypothesis that this is a species of prairie remnants and not of restored prairies.

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2 Comments

  1. Nancy said,

    December 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Fascinating. I never would have guessed that is a cicada singing!

  2. Lisa Rainsong said,

    December 2, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Nice photos – and what a small cicada! Its song sounds similar to the Say’s Cicada (Okanagana rimosa), which I heard for the first time this year. Say’s apparently would be similar in size or just a bit larger than the Prairie Cicada. Since Say’s Cicadas are up in the trees, however, my chances of finding one may be a matter of great good fortune.


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