Chicago is full of sounds all year round, from traffic to tanagers! Chatty squirrels, cooing pigeons and the occasional raccoon are our neighbors, and although we may not see them often we can always hear what they’re up to. Let’s explore some of the more unexpected sounds from some of our more well-known animal neighbors.
What do you hear in your neighborhood?
Squirrel – What a chatterbox!
Squirrels are excellent communicators and as a social animal they share information with other squirrels, especially when it comes to predators. With predators from the sky (like hawks or owls) and from below (like foxes or household cats), squirrels have a special call to alert other squirrels that a predator has been spotted but is moving away. Have you ever heard a sharp “quaaaa” sound from up in the trees? It sounds a bit like a cat, but it’s a squirrel telling others they’ve spotted you and are glad you’re on your way past their tree.
Red-tailed hawk – Nice to finally screech you
Red-tailed hawks are city dwellers with a very distinctive sound. Red-tailed hawks are very territorial especially when it comes to their nests which are often high in the topmost parts of trees, billboards, or window ledges. With a view of their surroundings, hawks make their presence known with their characteristic screech for any other birds of prey or curious squirrels. Their sound tells everyone to keep their distance.
Cicada – What’s all the buzz?
Summer in the city means the sound of cicadas! Chicagoans can hear several different species of cicada in the summer: the dog-day cicada, the Linne’s cicada and the scissor-grinder cicada are all common and each has a unique buzzing call. Cicadas (and other insects) have a unique body structure called a tymbal that produces their signature sound. The tymbal contains a series of flexible pieces almost like ribs that move and click one after the other when the cicada flexes its muscles. Every time these pieces are activated you’ll hear that summer cicada buzz. A single cicada can be heard from over a mile away!