The recent winter rains have given new life to vernal ponds that have been void of water for months. The result—a constant chorus with a source that may be difficult to determine without a trained ear.
If the sound you hear is a continuous series of short trills, a repeated “crrreek,” similar to the sound of fingers running over the teeth of a comb, the auditory amusement you may be witnessing is an upland chorus frog (Pseudacris feriarum) calling to his mate. Winter and early spring is prime time for his chorus, especially during wet weather.
Envision a small, brown to gray-colored frog, about 1.5 inches long. He has a light line along his upper lip, a dark stripe on his snout, a dark triangle between his eyes, and three dark stripes on his back. His head is barely breaking the water’s surface as his forelegs grasp for a blade of grass.
If the weather is cloudy, he calls throughout the day and night. If he is successful in attracting a female, the lucky lady will lay as many as 1,000 eggs. These gelatinous-like clusters of 20 to 100 eggs readily adhere to most any piece of vegetation. Eggs hatch within a week, and the resulting tadpoles transform into froglets in six to 12 weeks. Within a few more weeks, these froglets change into full-fledged frogs; and within a year, they are ready to breed.
To fuel his intense mating activity, he relies on insects for forage. He knows he can never get too comfortable singing and eating though because he serves as a prey species for basically any animal larger than he is.
Unaware of his impact, he helps humans by controlling populations of our most problematic insects. Humans, in turn, impact the health of his species, either directly or indirectly. As an indicator species, his condition is highly sensitive to pollution and an ideal way to gauge the health of his ecosystem.
By late April, this upland chorus frog has finished his breeding activity. The only chance you might hear him again during the summer is in the midst of a cool, rainy period or at night in damp weather.
You can locate him in almost any water-friendly area of the South—wet woodlands, swamps, ponds, bogs and marshes. Don’t be discouraged if you fail to see him. He is well-concealed from his potential predators but will allow you to enjoy his symphony if you hang around long enough to listen.