Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gray Tree Frog

This little green frog hiding on the cornstalk is a Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor)....I know......I know......it sounds like a misnomer, since he is obviously green and not gray. Truly the name is correct, and so is the color. They are color change artists, and will adapt their color to blend in with their environment. They cannot change color as rapidly as a chameleon but they get the job done nonetheless.

The ones I find near the house are usually gray, and the ones I see out in the grassy areas are green.  Those found near unnatural objects or if found dead they will most likely be gray in color. They have a bright yellow patch on their hind legs. These frogs should not be confused with another native frog called the "green tree frog (Hyla cinerea)". It is also green in color, but this frog is medium-sized, up to 6 cm (2.5 in) long. Their bodies are usually green in shades ranging from bright yellowish olive to lime green. The darkness of the color can change depending on lighting or temperature. There may be small patches of gold or white on the skin, and they may also have a white, pale yellow, or cream-colored line running from the jaw or upper lip  to the groin. They have smooth skin and large toe pads. The abdomen is pale yellow to white. Males have wrinkled throats (indicating the vocal sac) and are slightly smaller than females.


This arboreal species is native to almost all of the Eastern, and Northeastern United States and part of Southeastern Canada. Males begin singing for mates in May and continue calling for several weeks. I began hearing them call about 2 weeks ago. The calling is still somewhat sporadic and hasn't reached its crescendo as of yet. It could be because of the erratic weather we've been having. Daytime temps in the 90's, then in the 50's. Overnight lows from 70 down to around 38. Crazy Missouri weather....trust me if you don't like the weather wait a day, it WILL change.I'm sure all this fluctuation has them confused....Do we wake up? Do we sleep? Do we mate? Do we sing? Do we sleep? Eventually our weather will straighten out and then the super hot humid weather of summer will be here. It is at this time I see the tree frogs everywhere. They are most commonly active in the evening and at night. I find them in birdhouses, under the shutter of my home, in the gutters and clinging to the side of the house.


In Missouri the gray tree frog is found statewide and are the most commonly encountered tree frog throughout its range. They will be active all spring, summer and fall. When the night temperatures begin falling they will burrow into the soil and become dormant all winter, in a type of hibernation. Gray tree frogs do not have to burying themselves below the frost line as their "blood" is made up of a type of antifreeze called plasma glycerol. This substance prevents damage to tissues. Frogs are extremely sensitive to pollution and as such are considered indicator species. Areas with high pollution will have no frogs or very few frogs. Oxygen is breathed through their skin therefore any pollutants in the water or air will also be breathed in at alarming rates. We've all heard stories of frogs with more than two eyes, or numerous spare body parts. These mutant frogs have been heavily exposed to some kind of pollutant.

Frogs benefit humans in many ways, one of which is by being the indicator species they are. This gives us humans a "heads-up" as to what is going on in the environment, and hopefully gives us time to rectify any problems that are occurring. They also eat numerous insects, especially pesky mosquitoes and night flying moths.

I remember my husband always telling me to not handle these frogs because they are poisonous. He would insist it was true as that is what his grandpa told him, and if grandpa said it, it MUST BE TRUE! I would assure him the only way the frog was poisonous is if I suddenly decided to eat it, which of course I had no intention of doing. I also told him the frog is in more danger of being damaged by the oils or secretions on my hand, than I am in being poisoned by handling it. It never ceases to amaze me though, how rumors, myths and old wives tales run rampant in these parts.

14 comments:

  1. You have such great information on your blog! Thank you for all the love you put into it. We've only lived in Missouri for seven months, and are learning so much about our new ecosystem here. :)

    I was wondering for weeks what strange bird was singing in the neighbors' trees. Then I realized it was a grey tree frog! I hope I can spot one some day.

    Love,

    Marqueta

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  2. Marqueta thank you so much for your kind comments and welcome to Missouri. I hope you grow to love our state as much as I do. Tree frogs do indeed sound very much like birds chirping in the trees....I'm sure you will spot one soon...they are very common throughout Missouri.
    Your friend in Nature
    Shelly

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  3. I live in a neighborhood in Ballwin and we have so many tree frogs. I love their calls and people cannot believe it when they come over and hear them. It makes me feel good that they are an indicator species. We must live in a pretty unpoluted area! Well with these crazy temperatures, it is march 14th and they are all out singing!!! I missed them all winter. I guess this crazy weather has them confused. I hope they stay out!

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    1. I haven't heard the tree frogs yet, but I do have chorus frogs singing in a small watering hole near our garden. I also heard spring peepers singing near Chillicothe, MO last week. I agree that this uncommonly warm winter and early spring-like weather seems to have everything active earlier. I've seen turkey vultures a full week earlier, snakes have been out and about, etc....

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    2. I just added a picture of "Bob" on my facebook. He's our sumertime house guest, well deck guest. He is back for his third year. Good Luck Bob.
      Dennis O'Loughlin

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  4. I really appreciate you making this..... I'm doing a report for school on frogs and your page has helped me A LOT! thanks! :)

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  5. I'm starting to worry - I usually have them all over the house by now, but haven't seen any. Has anyone else?

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  6. I just found a grey in my house. It just frosted for the first time. Is it safe to put him out during the warm day?

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    1. I would say it is fine to put him outside when it warms up. He/She will figure out what to do to get out of the weather. They sometimes get turned around when finding shelter and end up in our houses. I had a rather startling experience last week. I opened the door to the laundry room and felt something slimy and squishy under my hand and discovered a little tree frog sitting there....LOL

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  7. Hi, I live on a farm near Kansas City area and finally located a grey tree frog that's been in our house for a couple weeks or more. It's almost December, can I put him out? Where? Barn, pond, ??? Thanks!

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    1. I'd say if you can wait until a warmer day, say in the mid 50's then it will probably okay to release him. Try putting him in some leaf litter or somewhere he can get out of the weather. The pond would be too cold. Barn might work, if there are nooks and crannies for him to hid in. I am sure he will be fine.

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  8. Hi, Shelly. My tree frogs have layed eggs in my two 55 gallon rain barrels. The tadpoles are growing well and I can't wait to see them morph. Last night, they lay more eggs in top of the screen over the other barrel. Can you suggest another type of container to move them to? I use this water for my garden. Thanks for any info you can offer.

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  9. I live on the Meremac river outside St Clair. When I open the umbrella on my deck I have tree frogs, one on my head!They try to hang out on my deck all day long.

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  10. Are the gray tree frogs poisonous to dogs?

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