The Singing of the Frogs

Spring can be pretty noisy around ponds, lakes, water holes, and other moist areas.  Male frogs and toads are the minstrels of warm weather, calling out in loud, pleading voices to woo the females. Pause and listen to them, for what you are hearing is a love song.

Frogs and toads are called anurans by science folk, and there are a bunch of species in our area.  Following is a description of the earliest singing you will hear in our area. Since you’re more likely to hear anurans than see them, it might interest you to learn to identify them by their calls.  Tapes and even CDs of their calls are available in nature catalogs and stores. If you have internet access you can hear different frog songs at http://bioweb.wku.edu/froglogger/.

Spring Peepers (Hyla crucefer) will be the first frogs you’ll hear in the Spring. They are little guys, only around 0.75 – 1.25 inches long, but their high pitched “peep, peep, peeping” can be heard for a quarter mile.  They are brown to gray with a dark “X” on the back. They are found in wooded or brushy areas near temporary or semi-permanent bodies of water (called vernal ponds).  You can find their eggs in water as small as tire ruts.

Wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) starts calling shortly after peepers do.  They are typically 1 – 3 inches long, brown to pink in color and characterized by a dark mask extending from the eye backwards across the eardrum.  Their voice is a harsh “quacking” sound.  Wood Frogs are found in moist woodlands. Breeding may take place in open water ponds or roadside ditches.

As spring progresses you will begin to hear the American toad (Bufo americanus).  They are 2 – 3.5 inches long, and vary in color from gray to brown to brick red. They have some spotting on the chest, with each spot having 1-2 bumps, or “warts”. These warts are glandular and poisonous if eaten, so they act as protection from predators.  Their voice is a long, high-pitched trill lasting 6-30 seconds.  Toads are found statewide, from backyard gardens to upland forests, and are active mostly at night.

Next is the Chorus frog (Pseudacris sp.), which are actively calling through April.  They are 0.75 – 1.5 inches long, and their coloration varies from pale gray to dark brown. They have a white line on the upper lip, and a dark line extending from the snout, through the eye, and ending at the groin.  Their voice sounds like a raked comb.

Other frogs you will likely hear in order of when they begin singing  include the Southern Leopard, Pickerel, Gray Treefrog, Green, and Bullfrog. The sounds of nature are to me very calming to the soul, so take time to listen.  In case you are wondering what all the frogs are singing, the rough translation is: “please baby, please baby, please baby, please!”

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