Another not a bird question

To: Judith Hoyle <>, BirdingAus <>
Subject: Another not a bird question
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2010 16:00:53 +1000
Hi Judith,

            Like Greg Clancy, my first thought was Asian House Gecko, but
they are indeed house animals by choice, and your friend is arboreal, you

So I think there is little doubt that what you have is one of Brisbane's
more unusual animals.  Unusual, in that it's very common ... and very little

My pet-name for it is the "Bipping Cicada", but officially it is the Bladder
Cicada (Cystosoma saundersii).

[What is the behaviour that Albert Lyrebirds and Bladder Cicadas have in
common?  My answer later in this email.]

If you haven't got a copy already, I'd strongly recommend that as a Brisbane
resident you buy a copy of the Qld Museum's book, "Wildlife of Greater
Brisbane".  In my 1995 copy the bladder cicada is on page 83, but unless it
has been added in a more recent edition you won't find any reference to the
sound you describe.  Even the Museum didn't know about it back in '95, it

During the day, the males at longish intervals give the 'plock, plock,
plock' call that you describe, but at dusk they change to something quite
different - a loud continuous buzz; a more typical cicada call.

I should perhaps qualify that "quite different".  Their continuous buzzing
"evensong" is in fact no more than those same 'plock' sounds, repeated so
rapidly that it makes that continuous buzz.

Unfortunately, I understand that I am not permitted to post the sounds to
birding-aus, but I'll send you a private email with an attached mp3 file,
and hope that you can use it.  It will contain:

    1. An example of the day-time ?bipping¹ call, (this one with four bips)
which I expect to be the sound you are hearing.

    2.  A sample of the cicada¹s continuous ?evensong¹.

    3.  an artificial evensong made by repeating a single bip from the
day-time calls.  First the single bip; then the artificial song; and finally
a sample of the real evensong again.

If I succeed in sending you a readable mp3 file, you can then tell
birding-aus whether my diagnosis of your sound is correct.  (And if not, why
then you can start listening for my 'bipping' cicada.)

And what is the behaviour that  Bladder Cicadas have in common with Albert
Lyrebirds?   A male establishes a territory and calls (a) to exclude other
males from his territory (his day-time bipping call); and (b) to attract
females for mating (his continuous 'evensong').

If you want proof of the above, record the sound of his daytime bipping call
and play the sound near him, and see the reaction you get.  And (if you're
lucky!) listen to and record the change in performance of his evensong when
a female does come to him.

[BTW, in case it's of significance, about 60 years ago I planted in our
garden a Red Bottlebrush tree, a Wheel-of-Fire, and a Water-gum
(Tristaniopsis collina).  I don't know if any of these were necessary to
encourage the Cicadas to come to live with us.]



> From: Judith Hoyle <>
> Date: Sun, 12 Dec 2010 19:56:40 +0000
> To: BirdingAus <>
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Another not a bird question
> Hi Birding Ausers
> Since coming to Brisbane in the late 90's, we have a summer visitor that is
> definitely not a bird, but I have never been able to work it out. It is
> arboreal and calls mainly in the day but occasionally at night.  It gives
> three repeat monosyballic calls that sounds like a halyard banging against a
> yacht mast....'plock, plock, plock'.  A gecko perhaps?? Any suggestions??
> Thanks
> Judith
> Judith Hoyle
> Brisbane
> 0437 549301                           ==============================

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