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Eastern Gray Tree Frog

The Eastern Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) is the chameleon of the frog world. Although its name would imply it’s not always the same color. It has the ability to adapt to backgrounds ranging from gray to green.

With a white spot under both eyes, a white belly and yellowish-orange markings on the inside of its hind legs, he is rather an exotic-looking frog for our area. The large adhesive pads on the end of its toes aide its ability cling to vertical surfaces.

Their predators are many species of birds, small mammals, snakes and other larger frogs. Bullfrogs and Green Frogs in our area are known predators and Giant Waterbugs will also attack them. They rarely leave the trees until the breeding season to avoid predators and are most active at night.

They prey upon most types of insects and their larvae. Mites, spiders, plant lice, harvestmen, and snails are also eaten as they hunt in the understory of wooded areas in small trees and shrubs. Like most frogs, it may also eat smaller frogs, including other tree frogs. Local pest populations of mosquitos, gnats, and flies are reduced in the territory of a single Gray Tree Frog.

Females in the animal kingdom tend to be more selective than males in choosing a mate. Female tree frogs respond to male tree frogs who have longer mating calls and ignore the frogs with shorter calls.

This initially seemed to indicate that females chose the male with the best song, but careful study revealed that offspring bred from these superior singers were of a higher quality, being measured by growth rate.

The sound of the male calling is comprised of a resonant musical trill and the dewlap (the pouch at his throat) expands and quivers.

In comparison to other frog species here, their calls are shorter being only .5 to 3 seconds long, but similar to the American Toad, but not as shrill.

Breeding is April to July. The female will lay up to 2,000 eggs singly or in loose clusters up to 30 eggs attached to vegetation near the surface in temporary or permanent ponds in swamps, forests, or gardens.

She chooses ponds that are relatively free of predators, especially avoiding fish. Eggs hatch in 3-6 days and tadpoles turn into frogs in 6-8 weeks, grazing on algae and plant debris.

They are subject to being consumed by larger fish and other amphibian larvae such as salamanders.

They overwinter under shelters of bark, leaves, rocks or logs. These frogs prevent ice crystals from forming in their organs by changing glycerol into glucose and circulating it through the organs. The remaining water in the body is allowed to freeze. The frog is basically frozen until next Spring.

In our habitat, the Eastern Gray Tree Frog returned each year to our deck planters which seem to offer protection from predators and they are near our small backyard pond.

This year they don’t spend as much time in the planters, but they are often there. Our naughty squirrels have chewed the planter corners so the water runs right out of the bottom rather than being held in the reservoir below.

The tree frogs seem to have adjusted. I hear them in the bushes by the deck and they still visit the planter that has a corner unchewed. They make it look so comfortable there. We would replace the planters, but the squirrels have been eating all things plastic for quite awhile now … so it would be a fruitless endeavor. Last week they chewed a hole in our big garbage toter that the trucks pick up.

During mating season they call from our deck and catch bugs attracted to the plants. This photo was taken at night while they were leaping for moths against a deck door that had an inside light gleaming through. They are just so cute and squeezeable, but I avoid touching them.

Amphibians can be safely handled if you are sure your hands have no toxins on them.

Always wet your hands before touching them so you don’t rub off the mucous membrane that keeps them from drying out and protects them from germs that can take their life.

Amphibians are being used to judge environmental toxicity of areas since they are so sensitive to poisons. Our world seems to be so full of toxicity.

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© 2006-2023 Donna L. Watkins

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