Like birds, each different species of cicada has a different song to help it locate a mate of the proper species. Apparently it is sometimes easier to identify a cicada from its song than from its appearance...for humans, if not for cicadas.
It's amazing! When I go outside now, I feel like I'm experiencing an entirely new layer of awareness. Suddenly, my mind tunes into the specific rhythm and tone of the cicada songs I'm hearing, on top of the familiar bird songs, the visual beauty of the leaves and flowers, and the feel of the wind on my skin. I'm astounded at how much richer my outdoor experience has suddenly become!
Here are some of the various cicadas that I have identified in our yard. If you go to the above page with its cicada songs, you can hear the different song for each of these species. (Sorry, I tried to link each song below the photo, but a couple links worked and the rest didn't. It seemed less confusing to just send you directly to the page itself, which is very easy to navigate, than to have some functional links and some dysfunctional ones.)
I don't have a photo of the next species, but when I went out early yesterday morning to take the trash out to the curb, the scissor grinder, Tibicen pruinosus, was calling from the honey locust hedge. Here is what it sounded like (and probably looked like, if I had been able to see it!) Note: this is not my recording.
As a side note, in cicadas, only the males sing. Unlike grasshoppers or crickets, male cicadas do not stridulate, or rub various parts of their body together to produce their song. Instead, male cicadas have paired membranous structures in their abdomens called tymbals, which vibrate rapidly, the sound resonating within the body of the cicada. Some cicadas sing so loudly that their song could cause damage to the human ear if the insect were singing right beside it.
It's going to be an interesting challenge now to see how many different cicadas I can learn to identify from their calls! It'll be fun to match up photos with calls as well, helping me to determine just exactly which different species I'm sharing our land with. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.