Gator Song

photo of alligator from the National Park Service
Ever heard an alligator growl like a lion? Well, the male does just that—it is thought to be a courtship call, heard throughout much of the South during the gator’s spring breeding season. My friend Ted Mack and I obtained a good example during a visit to the Everglades National Park, where alligators are common:

Dawn chorus in the Everglades with alligators bellowing and catbird singing, along with frogs and insects, dawn, 17 May, 1994, Shark Valley area of the Everglades National Park, Florida. Recorded by Lang Elliott and Ted Mack.

This one is a crowd-pleaser because of the alligator bellows. Nonetheless, it a fairly gentle rendering—even the loud bellows near the beginning are not at all jarring. I’m curious as to how folks respond to the Gray Catbird songs, heard throughout. Are they too loud? I might lower them a bit if anyone is bothered. A band of insect song occurs just above 5000 Hz, which adds some brightness to the soundscape.

Note that a longer, 8-minute version will be included in Everglades Soundscapes, a title that will feature a variety of interesting tracks from the park and the neighboring Big Cypress National Preserve.


  1. Excellent! Here in Michigan, you’re never going to hear this! I’ve always wanted to go to Florida. One day, when I’m old enough to drive, I’ll just go!

  2. In addition to alligators I also heard: The catbird that’s mentioned, a Prothonotary Warbler, a Barred Owl (once), and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker (?). I heard calls from these frogs: Pine Woods Treefrog, Northern Cricket Frogs, and Pig Frogs. Finally, I heard a harsh call from a heron, which I’m guessing is a Little Blue Heron or a Snowy Egret, because they have quite harsh calls.

  3. Ahh… true brain exercise! My brain loves music and you are producing some of the very best I’ve heard! Top of the Day to you! (and thx… )

  4. I’m curious if others noticed the same thing from the band of insects – or perhaps from other recordings where there is a narrow band dominated by insects.

    To my ears when there are a lot of insects calling in a small range so that the individuals cannot be heard (unlike sparse katydids), it just sounds like a band of noise. In my own recordings when I lower this band, it gives the rest of the recording breathing room and unmasks subtleties of adjacent frequencies. I’m not sure how broadly this can be applied. I often worry that my initial sensitivity to the insects has created an unfair bias to dampening insect heavy frequency bands.

  5. Being a native Floridian, I love this one. Gator bellowing is one of the most amazing sounds to hear in person.

  6. Hi Lang. The overall tonal balance is quite nice from this recording. I think that if you were to lower the catbird, the gator bellow would be too loud. The band of insects at 5K is a little fatiguing, but I think my ears are just overly sensitive to the sound at that band.

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