What creature makes a clicking sound at night?

Many people have heard mysterious clicking or tapping sounds at night and wondered what kind of creature could be making such noises. These repetitive sounds are most often heard during the night when it’s quiet, coming from the walls, ceiling, or outdoors. The source of these intermittent clicks, chirps and taps is the subject of much speculation, with guesses ranging from ghosts to aliens. However, the most likely origin of these sounds comes from various nocturnal creatures that are known to communicate using a variety of clicks, chirps, trills and calls.


Crickets are one of the most common creatures known for making clicking or chirping sounds at night. These familiar chirping noises come from male crickets rubbing their forewings together to attract females. The sounds serve as mating calls that help the male crickets find receptive females in the dark.

Crickets tend to be most active and vocal at night when there are fewer predators around. Their chirping allows them to communicate without being seen. The noise peaks in late summer when breeding is at its height. Different species of crickets make distinct chirping sounds, so an experienced listener can identify the type of cricket just by its song.

The common field cricket is one of the most ubiquitous cricket species found making noise after dark. Its song is a repetitive chirp at a rate of about 15 chirps per second. The snowy tree cricket makes a slower paced trilling sound. Crickets are found worldwide except Antarctica, and over 900 species are known to exist, so nighttime clicking noises in most parts of the world can likely be attributed to crickets.


Bats are well-known for using echolocation to navigate and hunt for prey at night. Echolocation allows bats to perceive their surroundings and locate objects by emitting high-frequency clicks and interpreting the resulting echoes that bounce back (https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/plants_wildlife/bats/batelocu.aspx).

Most bats produce echolocation clicks through their larynx and emit the sounds through their mouth or nose. The clicks are often outside the range of human hearing, at frequencies between 14,000 and 100,000 Hz. When the clicks hit an object, they produce echoes that return to the bat’s sensitive ears (https://elifesciences.org/articles/36561).

As bats hunt, they can identify the location, size, shape, texture, and motion of prey items based on the patterns in the echoes. The time between emitting a click and receiving an echo allows bats to judge how far away an object is. Changes in echo intensity hint at the object’s size. Distinct repeating echoes indicate moving prey like flying insects.

Some bats also use a strategy called “bimodal echolocation” where they emit two clicks in rapid succession. The second click gives them an updated “snapshot” of the prey’s location for more precise targeting (https://elifesciences.org/articles/36561). This helps bats successfully intercept prey while on the wing at night.


Many species of frogs make distinctive clicking or clacking sounds at night during breeding season to attract mates. Male frogs make these noises by contracting muscles and tendons around their vocal sacs to produce a clicking or clacking sound that carries over long distances.

Some common frog species known for their clicking mating calls at night include spring peepers, gray treefrogs, and green frogs. The spring peeper’s call is a high-pitched whistling or beeping noise that speeds up into a trill when calling for a mate. Gray treefrogs make a rapid chuckling trill noise. Green frogs produce a notable clacking or chucking sound.

The mating calls of frogs primarily serve to advertise the male frog’s location and attract female frogs during breeding season. Certain patterns or rhythms of the clicks communicate the male frog’s fitness. Because these noises carry far at night when less ambient noise is present, they allow frogs to communicate over large areas to potential mates.

So if you hear a distinct clicking or clacking sound outside your window at night, it likely means frogs in the area are calling for their prospective mates. These signals are a normal part of frog reproduction and indicate springtime breeding behaviors.

Source: Calls of Frogs and Toads of the Northeast


One of the most common sources of clicking noises at night are insects like crickets, cicadas, and beetles. Crickets and katydids are well known for the chirping sounds they make at night, which are produced when the male insects rub their wings together to attract females. The frequency of the chirps helps the females locate potential mates.

Cicadas also produce distinct clicking or buzzing noises at night during mating season. The males vibrate drum-like tymbal organs on their abdomen to amplify the sound and attract females. According to researchers at UC Santa Cruz, the clicking sounds from cicadas can resemble “a cacophony of mechanical-sounding clicks” (source).

Other nocturnal insects like click beetles and longhorn beetles can create clicking sounds as well. Click beetles make an audible click when they flip their bodies into the air to right themselves after being flipped on their backs. Longhorn beetles communicate by tapping their antennae against trees to make a clicking or ticking sound.


Some nocturnal birds like nightjars are known for making distinctive clicking or knocking sounds at night. Nightjars are medium-sized birds that are most active at dawn and dusk. They have unique feathers that allow them to fly silently and catch insects on the wing.

One of the most common nightjar calls is a repetitive hollow “chonk, chonk, chonk” or clicking/knocking sound. According to Large-tailed Nightjar Calls & Sounds, this is used by male nightjars to advertise their territory and attract mates. The Rattles, Claps, & Burp-clicks blog describes how male Australian Owlet-nightjars make burp-clicking sounds when about to go into a long singing session to attract females.

The unique clicking and knocking calls of nightjars are most noticeable at night when there is less background noise. These repetitive sounds carry well and help nightjars find mates while defending their territories after sunset.


Rats and mice are nocturnal rodents that often make clicking or chattering sounds, especially at night. These sounds are a form of communication between the rodents. Rats, in particular, use a combination of ultrasonic squeaks along with audible clicks and chatters to communicate with each other in the dark (SOURCE1).

The clicking or chattering sounds made by rats and mice are often a sign of respiratory issues, according to experts. A common respiratory infection called mycoplasma can cause rodents to produce these sounds as they struggle to breathe. Pet owners who hear frequent clicking from their rats or mice should have them checked by a veterinarian for potential treatment (SOURCE2).

Beyond illness, rats also click and chatter as a means of talking with each other, warning of danger, or signaling location. High frequency chirping from rats is thought to be a warning call to other rats of potential threats. So those strange clicking sounds in the walls at night may be rat conversations as they roam and forage (SOURCE1).


Some reptiles like lizards and snakes are known to make clicking sounds, especially at night. According to reptile forums, one common reason is respiratory infections, which cause wheezing or clicking when the reptile breathes (Royal Python – Clicking Noise?). Ball pythons in particular have been reported making slight clicking noises while breathing when they have early stage respiratory infections, even without other symptoms (Thread: Clicking Noise). Respiratory infections in snakes are often caused by low humidity and temperatures in their habitat. The clicking sounds are the early signs before more severe wheezing develops.

Some species of geckos and small lizards also make clicking sounds, which are thought to be a form of communication. For example, Tokay geckos are known for their loud clicking calls at night, which are territorial warnings and mating calls. So if you hear a persistent clicking sound outside at night, it could very well be a reptile like a gecko or snake signaling its presence.

Marine Animals

Among marine life, snapping shrimp produce a distinctive clicking or snapping sound. The sounds come from snapping shrimp rapidly closing their claws to stun prey or deter predators. When the claw snaps shut, it creates a cavitation bubble that quickly collapses, producing a loud snap that can reach up to 210 decibels (Snapping Shrimp – DOSITS). The sounds are often heard at night in shallow tropical and subtropical waters where snapping shrimp are common.

Snapping shrimp make up the Alpheidae family of shrimp. The loud clicks are produced by the pistol shrimp, which has one greatly enlarged claw. The snapping sounds can be repetitive as pistol shrimp snap their claws repeatedly to communicate. This creates an almost constant crackling or clicking noise underwater at night in areas where pistol shrimp are concentrated.


A diverse array of wildlife can make clicking sounds at night, from birds and bats to insects and reptiles. There is a surprising number of creatures that come out when the sun goes down, and make similar strange noises in the darkness. While some clicking is meant for communication and mating calls between animals, the mystery remains for the specific sources and reasons behind various clicks, chirps and croaks in the night. The nocturnal world teems with unseen life emitting different sounds. The next time you hear a peculiar clicking after sundown, take a moment to appreciate the active wildlife in the area. With careful listening and observation, you may be able to identify the creature making its presence known.