Monday, July 13, 2009
Gray Tree Frog
Tree frogs are one of my favorite frogs. There is something so darn cute about them. Pictured here is the "Gray Tree Frog" (Hyla versicolor). The species name comes from their ability to "change" color, just like a chameleon. Depending upon their environment they can change to varying shades of green or gray, white or even brownish, allowing them to blend in with their surroundings. Unlike the Chameleon the color change is slow, if you locate a dead or decaying tree frog chances are it will be predominately gray. The one pictured here in the bird house may actually be the same specimen. When I first spotted him Saturday he was gray, then yesterday he appeared again in the same house looking very green. So I am unsure as to whether I have two individuals that have taken up residence in the bird house or if it is the same one, and he is changing his color to suit his mood. The first picture is one that I spotted in a flower pot on our front porch and as you can see he is very green. The picture beside it is a baby I found on our grapes, she too looks very green, much like the leaves. One can assume this color changing ability gives them protection from predation. Like all frogs their life begins in water, for the tree frog tadpoles their life cycle is rather short, often times being complete in as little as two months. The newly emerged frogs are almost always green. In about 2 to 4 days they will take on the trademark gray color. These are a relatively small tree frog, reaching lengths up to 2 inches. The baby pictured here was about an inch long. A distinguishing characteristic of this species is bright yellow patches of color on the inside of their hind legs, this yellow is usually only visible when they crawl or hop. Tree frogs have toe pads or suction-cup-like pads on their toes to allow them to climb. Being boreal by nature you will find them near timbered areas, especially if a ready water supply is nearby. In our yard we have them hiding out behind the shutters on our house and living in bird houses near our goldfish pond. This particular species is found throughout the Eastern United States and into Texas. Another tree frog called the Copes Tree Frog is so similar the only accurate way to tell them apart is their call. Plus the Copes Tree Frog tends to be more of a southerly species. These frogs are predators of many types of insects, and are nocturnal in their habits. After a rain look for them in shallow water holes, often calling out for mates. Mating occurs throughout the spring and summer. When a receptive female is located she will give the male a nudge to indicate she is approving of his attention. He will then commence with mating by climbing onto her back. After breeding, the female will lay up to 2000 eggs in a shallow body of water. In approximately a week the eggs will hatch and in about 2 months the new little frogs will begin to appear. These little frogs make excellent pets. They require very little in the way of attention. A ready supply of water and crickets, a 10 gallon aquarium and a daily misting is all that is required. An old wives tale stated that these frogs were poisonous if handled, this is not true. All frogs secrete substances from their skin, and there are species of frogs found all around the world that are potentially harmful to humans or even fatal. These frogs are not one of them, they are harmless. Each evening as we sit outside we hear these little Romeos singing their little hearts out looking for their Juliet. Truly one of the sounds of summer that I look forward to each year.