Spring Peeper

2016 May 25

Sam and Rosie caught this little frog in the yard on April 16, 2016.


Its body was under an inch long, so as far as size goes it wasn’t much bigger than some of our larger insects. From the coloration, and the dark “X” mark on its back, this is pretty clearly a Spring Peeper, Pseudacris crucifer.


They are excellent climbers, mostly because of the little suction cups at the tips of their toes. Here it is using them to climb up the smooth inside of a can.


After getting pictures, we released it in a small pool that Sam and I dug last summer in the swampy area north of our house. Where it sat calmly on a dead, floating maple leaf while I got one last picture.


The adult frogs are mostly terrestrial, living in moist woodlands and eating whatever insects they can catch. During the winter, they just find a generally protected place to hibernate, and tough it out. They can tolerate partial freezing of their body fluids, and as long as the shelter where they are hibernating never gets below about -8 degrees C (roughly 18 degrees F) they will survive.

Then, in the spring, the males find a pool, pond, swamp, or other wetland suitable for tadpoles, climb up onto an elevated object near it, and start singing. Each individual frog makes individual piercing “PEEP” noises, but you don’t normally get an individual frog. You get a few hundred individual frogs, all peeping madly[1]. The females then seek out the male whose voice they find most attractive, they drop down into the water, and the female lays about 900-1000 eggs in a sheltered spot while the male rides on her back and fertilizes them. Once they hatch, the tadpoles eat algae for about 8 weeks until they sprout legs to turn into froglets, at which point they leave the pond and disperse into the woods until the next spring.

[1] The spring peepers seem to dominate in the very early spring, immediately after the snow melts, and their chorous is raucus and carries for some distance. After a few weeks, the peepers stop peeping, and some other frogs (probably the gray tree frogs) take over with a song that is not quite as loud, and is more of a steady “chrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”.

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