Is this a pygmy rattler sound?

Asked December 28, 2016, 11:29 AM EST

I am in southern Alabama. Standing in a damp brush filled ditch I have heard an unusual sound. It is a hissing or buzzing sound that lasts only for about 1 second followed by a pause of about 2 seconds and then repeats. I only hear it repeat 3 or 4 times because I get the heck out of there. I have now heard it in the same location on two different days.
To approximate the sound extend your tongue slightly and blow air with a little saliva between your toungue and teeth.

Baldwin County Alabama

1 Response

Thank you for your question. Of course, not being able to hear the sound myself makes it difficult to say for sure, but I doubt that it's a pigmy rattlesnake that you're hearing. First, they have very small, if not tiny, rattles, and they're usually difficult to hear, even when you're close to the snake. Second, although they will often remain silent and still, depending on their camouflage to conceal them from a potential predator, once they decide to sound their rattle as a warning, they generally rattle for several seconds or longer, even if the threat moves away, as if to ensure that whatever is threatening them gets the message. Based on the duration of the buzzing and the way it repeats, I'm inclined to believe the origin is some type of insect.

Here's a link to a site that has an extensive collection of sound recordings on crickets, katydids, grasshoppers and cicadas:

and here's a link to the Iowa State Entomology Index of Internet Resources that lists multiple sources of recorded insect sounds (note that not all of the insects listed are from North America):

Hope this information help, and thank you for using Ask an Expert.