June Nature Notes: Listen for the breeding calls of this tree-dwelling amphibian.
Warm spring weather prompts male gray treefrogs to gather in May and June near shallow, temporary pools to begin calling to attract females. Nocturnal, they live high in trees, descending at night to chorus and breed. Their guttural trilling resembles the call of a red-bellied woodpecker.
The gray treefrog’s color is highly variable, ranging from bright green to gray, usually with dark mottling. All have a dark-edged light spot beneath the eyes, bright gold inner thighs and white bellies. Males have dark throats; female throats are light. The skin of the back is rough and lightly sprinkled with small warts. Large, circular suction disks on each toe allow them to adhere to vertical surfaces.
Gray treefrog tadpoles have round bodies and are easily distinguished from other species by their wide, red tails decorated with black dots along the margins. The tadpoles become froglets in six to eight weeks, moving to upland woodlands to forage for insects.
Attach a kitchen strainer to a dowel rod with a length of duct tape to create an inexpensive hand-held seine perfect for capturing tadpoles for temporary viewing in a jar before releasing them back into their home waters to continue their life cycle.
Carol McFeeters Thompson, Interpreter, Weldon Springs State Park, is a regular contributor to OutdoorIllinois