Gray Treefrogs: The little frog with the very big voice


A Gray Tree frog that has matched the color of 'his' wren box watches the author.

A Gray Treefrog that has matched the color of ‘his’ wren box watches the author.

The Eastern Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) is the chameleon of frogs. They are masters of camouflage with the ability to change colors in seconds. Their large sticky toe pads enable them to hop up tree bark for a night of hunting or scale glass windows with ease. Then they wait in full stealth mode for bugs and beetles drawn to porch lights. On humid nights and sultry days of July the song of this frog in the trees is unmistakable. Some consider the song a loud, almost annoying and insect-like trill. While others love the magical melody of this pudgy-appearing frog, that’s very much at home in Oakland County. Consider me among the latter.

The song of the male gray treefrog is visible as well as audible. The large vocal sac under the throat inflates with air and then deflates rapidly creating music that is unforgettable.

Eastern Gray Treefrogs average length is two inches long. Colors range from a mossy green, to a bright green, to brownish hues and even shades of gray! Their colors can change rapidly to suit their background. They also have a bright yellowish orange color on the inside on their thighs. Some naturalists believe the leg stripe can confuse predators, and they have many predators. The predator list includes herons, egrets, snakes, raccoons, skunks, opossums and various other animals. It all depends on the frog’s location and the time of the day. Although considered a nocturnal species, the evidence is overwhelming that treefrogs are also active during the day. The evidence: singing in daylight.

Gray treefrogs are habitat specialists, requiring specific habitats to survive and thrive. Oakland County has many lakes, ponds, wild land, and forested lands that suit their needs. They live in forested areas adjacent to or near permanent bodies of water, as water is needed for breeding. A late afternoon walk on a summer day after a thunderstorm at Addison Oaks, Highland Oaks, Independence Oaks, Orion Oaks, Springfield Oaks or Rose Oaks county parks is sure to bring amazing listening opportunities. But do not go to the ponds to look for or listen to these frogs. They will not be in the water among the green frogs and bullfrogs. They will be among the leafy branches of oak trees or on shrubs near wetlands. When the humidity is high, the bugs are plentiful and for the frogs, the living is good.

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Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks.

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