Genus Psaltoda Stal, 1861 (Redeye, Roarers, Barons, Clanger, Yellowbelly, Sages and Knights)

All species included in this genus occur in eastern Australia and one occurs on Lord Howe Island. Fifteen species are included in Psaltoda and all are illustrated here. One characteristic of the genus is the silver patch found on the lateral sides of tergite 3. Another general attribute is that many species produce biphasic songs with both a continuous component and a sequence of pulses.

Distribution of the genus Psaltoda


Index to genus Psaltoda

Black Friday Green Baron Psaltoda claripennis Psaltoda plaga
Black Prince Little Baron Psaltoda flavescens Psaltoda pictibasis
Clanger Phantom Knight Psaltoda fumipennis Psaltoda mossi
Clubbed Sage Psaltoda adonis Psaltoda harrisii Red Roarer
Dark Sage Psaltoda antennetta Psaltoda macallumi Silver Knight
Forest Demon Psaltoda aurora Psaltoda magnifica Smoky Sage
Golden Knight Psaltoda brachypennis Psaltoda moerens Yellowbelly

Redeye Psaltoda moerens (Germar, 1834)

Male

Female

Size: Forewing length: 42-52mm.

Range and Season: From Kroombit Tops in Queensland south to the eastern half of Tasmania. In Victoria it occurs west to the Grampians, with isolated populations on the Victorian/South Australian border and in South Australia at the Adelaide Hills. In Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales the species is mostly restricted to the highlands, on or adjacent to the Great Dividing Range. Adults occur from November until March.

Habits: Eucalypt forests are the preferred habitat throughout the speciesí range. Populations only emerge every few years and can become abundant in the height of the summer. The upper branches of trees are preferred, but when numbers are immense, individuals can be found just about anywhere in the forest.

Song: A rich growl that increases in volume until it becomes a roar. This then breaks up into a melodious yodel sequence, which then fades away. This sequence sounds something like: "de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yaw de-e-yeeeeeeeeeeeeeawwww..."

Recording of subdued calling song

Recording of chorus

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Black Friday Psaltoda pictibasis (Walker, 1858)

Male

Female

Alternative name: Black Yodeller.

Size: Forewing length: 49-60mm.

Range and Season: From Rockhampton west to Mitchell in Queensland and south to Tamworth and Dubbo in New South Wales. A common cicada in some bushland areas around Brisbane, Queensland. Populations are absent from the mountains of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales. Adults occur from October through to March.

Habits: This species only occurs in dry sclerophyll forest and eucalypt woodland, sometimes adjacent to dry vine scrub. The upper branches of trees are preferred. Populations can sometimes be found with Thopha spp. and Macrotristria spp. and often other Psaltoda spp.

Song: A low, rumbling growl that rises in pitch before breaking into a yodelling sequence. Different individuals in the population (depending on abundance and the ambient temperature) may emit this sequence at either a fast or slower rate. Occasionally an individual can be heard producing alternations between fast and slow yodel speeds after each rumbling phase. Singing can occur at any time of day and may take place for extended periods when numbers are high and the weather is very hot. See notes under P. aurora.

Recording of rumbling phase of song

Recording of male chorus

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Red Roarer Psaltoda aurora Distant, 1881

Male

Female

Size: Forewing length: 50-62mm.

Range and Season: North-eastern Australia from the Windsor Tableland to west of Paluma and also from the lower areas adjacent to Blackdown Tableland south to Rockhampton and the Dawson River. Adults are present from November to February.

Habits: Eucalypts growing on the verges of rainforests, in dry sclerophyll forest and along the edges of rivers are favoured. Like most Psaltoda spp. the upper limbs of trees are preferred. Populations sizes vary from year to year. It can be a locally common cicada in some seasons.

Song: Similar to P. pictibasis, except that there are soft yodel-like inflections produced in the continuous rumbling phase of song, which is often more drawn out. Also, this species never produces the fast yodel characteristic of P. pictibasis. The two species are closely similar.

Recording of calling song

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Green Baron Psaltoda magnifica Moulds, 1984

Male

Size: Forewing length: 48-56mm.

Range and Season: Only found in the Queensland tropics from the Windsor Tableland south to Paluma. A prominant species on the Atherton Tableland. Can be heard singing from November to March.

Habits: Adults occur in the upper canopy of the rainforest and can usually only be seen when attracted to light after dark. Populations are often large and cover wide areas within the speciesí habitat.

Song: A rich series of yodelling sequences with a low undertone. Each sequence varies in timing and alternates regularly. It is one of the most pleasant sounds of the tropical rainforest.

Recording of calling song

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Golden Knight Psaltoda flavescens Distant, 1892

Male

Female

Size: Forewing length

Range and Season: This species occurs in the sub-humid areas of eastern Queensland from north of Rockhampton south to Canungra, Mt. Maroon and the Boonah district. It is normally associated with limestone-based soils, but sandstone dominated areas are also inhabited. Adults are present from November to January.

Habits: Dry vine scrubs and dry rainforests are the preferred habitats for this species, although individuals can sometimes be found in adjacent eucalypt forest. Population size varies substantially between seasons. In some years this species can be abundant, whilst at other times it can be very uncommon or even absent.

Song: A rich growl that rises rapidly in volume until a single pulse is emitted in the form of a sharp "twang". The song then fades away. Frequency of repetition is dependant on temperature and the number of singing males present. When numbers are low there may be some time between bursts of song.

Oscillogram of calling song

Recording of calling song

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Little Baron Psaltoda mossi Moulds, 2002

Male

Female

Size: Forewing length: 29-38mm.

Range and Season: Eastern Australia, from near Coen south to Mount Garnett and from Yepoon inland through the Carnarvon and Expedition National Parks in Queensland and south to the Griffith area in southern New South Wales (Moulds, 2002). An uncommon species around Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast hindterland. Adults occur from late November to until at least February.

Habits: Populations can build up into immense numbers in the dry vine scrubs of south-east Queensland. They often occur in association with Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) and sometimes Bursaria spp. regrowth. In areas where Brigalow is absent, the species does not appear to be as common. Dry sclerophyll forest is infrequently inhabited.

Song: A rich continuous growl that is similar in tone to P. flavescens. This is followed by a pulsing component comprising of abrupt phrases, somewhat similar to revving a motorbike. At dusk a subdued rumbling call is emitted. Adults sing in unison.

Recording of typical calling song (Warwick, Queensland)

Recording of typical calling song (Narrabri, New South Wales)

Recording of dusk calling song (Pittsworth, Queensland)

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Yellowbelly Psaltoda harrisii (Leach, 1814)

Male

Female

Size: Forewing length: 30-40mm.

Range and Season: Scattered populations occur in north-eastern Australia at the Atherton Tableland, Paluma, Mackay, the Blackdown Tableland, Carnarvon National Park and Monto. The main population extends from Fraser Island, inland to Stanthorpe and Glen Innes and south to Moruya in southern New South Wales. It is a particularly common species in the forests of Brisbane and Sydney. It can be observed from October to April.

Habits: Males aggregate on trees and are especially common in coastal heathland. In montane areas, populations tend to be smaller. Eucalypts are favoured and adults can be found anywhere from the base of the tree up to the canopy, but most individuals occur on the upper branches.

Song: Particularly loud for the size of the insect. It consists of strong vibrating groan that ends off with an abrupt phase, like a sigh, which gives a rolling effect to the song. When populations are large the song just sounds like a continuous chaotic buzz, as individuals do not successfully sing in unison. The hottest part of the afternoon and also at about mid-morning are the preferred times for singing.

Oscillogram of calling song

Recording of calling song

Recording of continuous song

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Clanger Psaltoda claripennis Ashton, 1921

Male

Female

Size: Forewing length: 34-42mm.

Colour: Eyes red in life.

Range and Season: From the Windsor Tableland in Queensland, east and west of the Great Dividing Range, to south of Tamworth in New South Wales. Along the coastal belt it is only known as far south as Grafton. In Queensland it occurs west to Mitchell and Carnarvon National Park and is certainly the most common Psaltoda in the suburbs of Brisbane. Adults emerge in October and persist until April.

Habits: Adults prefer eucalypts and can also often be found on Casuarina spp. This is one of the most adaptable species in the genus, very common in gardens and is also often present in the company of other Psaltoda spp. as well as sometimes Thopha spp. and Macrotristria spp.

Song: A strong rattle that builds up before bursting into a rapid pulsing song. It then returns to the rattle and the process repeats, sounding something like a large sprinkler system.

Oscillogram of calling song

Recording of calling song

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Smoky Sage Psaltoda fumipennis Ashton, 1912

Appearance: Live specimens are greenish and compact. They are defined by having a prominent and somewhat blurred wing infuscation (near the apex of the forewing) and a general smoky appearance to the wings. The antennae are not clubbed as found in one species further north.

Size: Forewing length: 38-46mm.

Range and Season: From south of Cooktown to the southern end of Paluma Range in Tropical northern Queensland. There presence has been noted from November to March.

Habits: Adults are never abundant, but can sometimes be moderately common. They usually occur in pristine tropical rainforest at moderate to high elevations and are usually heard singing from high up in rainforest trees. Specimens occasionally fly in to lights at night.

Song: A strong series of broken phrases, emitted with a rattle-like quality. These are followed by a continuous longer phrase, lasting a few seconds. Males sing in unison.

Oscillogram of calling song

Recording of calling song

Thanks to Rob Morgan for this recording

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Clubbed Sage Psaltoda antennetta Moulds, 2002

Appearance: Live specimens resemble P. fumipennis, but have distinctive clubbed antennae and much reduced melanism surrounding the wing veins.

Size: Forewing length: 38-46mm.

Range and Season: From south of Cooktown to the southern end of Paluma Range in Tropical northern Queensland. Their presence has been noted from November to March.

Habits: A rainforest species. Populations may be large, particularly later in the season after rainfall. Adults always occur high up and are difficult to observe.

Song: A series of broken phrases, identical to P. fumipennis. These are followed by a series of drawn out phrases with a whine-like quality.

Recording of calling song

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Dark Sage Psaltoda macallumi Moulds, 2002

Appearance: A dark Psaltoda with distinct wing infuscations and widely separated opercula. Lacks the clubbed antennae of P. antennetta above.

Size: Forewing length: 38-46mm.

Range and Season: Known principally from the Carbine range about Mt Lewis and Mt Spurgeon.

Habits: An uncommon rainforest cicada. Adults always occur high up and are difficult to observe.

Song: A loud, drawn out whine. Adults sing in unison.

Recording of calling song

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Silver Knight Psaltoda plaga (Walker, 1850)

Black Prince Male

Black Prince Female

Silver Knight (Olive form) Male

Silver Knight (Olive form) Female

Alternative name: Black Prince

Size: Forewing length: 37-47mm.

Range and Season: From south of Bundaberg, coastally and subcoastally down to southern New South Wales, including the Sunshine and Gold coasts and associated Hinterland, Stanthorpe, Glen Innes, Tenterfield, Dorrigo and also much of suburban Sydney. It is also present further west in New South Wales at Warrumbungle National Park. It is patchy in Queensland, being most prominent in some mangrove areas and also along watercourses lined with Casuarina cunninghamiana. Around Brisbane, populations are mostly restricted to the north-west. Present from late October to early June.

Colour variants: The Silver Knight occurs in olive and green colour forms. These occur along the coastal belt from Bundaberg south to north-eastern New South Wales. The darker forms of the Silver Knight are known as the Black Prince and it varies from jet black to rich brown/black and also slate grey. It occurs from the Sunshine Coast Hinterland west to the slopes of the Great Dividing Range and south to beyond Sydney. The Black Prince is the common colour form in the suburbs of Sydney.

Habits: Often found in the close vicinity of water, including Rivers, Creeks, Dams and sheltered bays, in fairly local populations. Adults occur in loose aggregations and populations tend to be local. In montane areas it also occurs around hilltops, in dry sclerophyll forest. Casuarina cunninghamiana and eucalypts growing beside rivers provide ideal habitat. On the coast mangroves are also inhabited.

Song: Harsh and metallic with a continuous wine and a pulsing phase. The song may begin with either phase and both are interchanged in a random fashion.

Recording of calling song

Recording of continuous phase of calling song

Recording of pulsing phase of calling song

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Phantom Knight Psaltoda brachypennis (Moss and Moulds, 2000)

Male

Size: Forewing length: 33-41mm.

Colour: Specimens are usually a dark kaki green in life.

Range and Season: Paluma Range in North Queensland south to Mt. Kaputar and Grafton in New South Wales, including Mount Moffatt, Expedition Range, Monto, near Chinchilla, near Stanthorpe, Inglewood and throughout Greater Brisbane. It occurs from mid-November to February.

Habits: Solitary with individuals perching high up and scattered throughout usually moister, open forests. It is Widespread and can occasionally be moderately common in eucalypts and other myrtaceous species in dry sclerophyll forest and also in dry vine scrubs.

Song: Always begins with a loud roar which increases rapidly in volume and may last for some time, this is often (though not always) finished by a series of rolling, soft pulses that conclude the song burst. There is always a considerable gap (>5 seconds) between the pulsing phase and the next roar.

Oscillogram of calling song

Recording of calling song

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Forest Demon Psaltoda adonis Ashton, 1914

Male

Female

Appearance: Green head and thorax with four narrow black "V's" (which look like the heads of four pencils facing down). The abdomen tends to be browner. The wing veins become more melanistic distally giving them a slightly blurred, smoky look.

Size: Forewing length: 45-50mm.

Range and Season: South-eastern Queensland from Eurimbula Ck near Miriam Vale, south to the Mooloola river on the western side of Caloundra and inland to Somerset Dam. Also present on Fraser Island. This species has only been recorded from November to January.

Habits: This species is, many ways, atypical of the genus, particularly in the adults preference to perch on lianas. Populations occur in riverine rainforest on sandy loam soils. The only record from mountain rainforest is from the Many Peaks Ranges south of Gladstone. Adults are usually uncommon and can be easily overlooked.

Song: A rather short, harsh shriek unlike any other Psaltoda spp. Singing is very sporadic when there are only a few calling males present.

Recording of calling song

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