Hoosier frogs join the chorus

This week I’m writing about things that go peep, croak and brr-wum in the night. If you’ve ever been near water at dusk or at night, you know what I’m talking about.

We’re talking about frogs. According to the Department of Natural Resources, we’ve got 14 types of frogs in Indiana, including one that is on the endangered list, and three kinds of toads.

The list includes bullfrog, northern cricket frog, crawfish frog (it’s the one on the list), Cope’s gray tree frog, eastern gray tree frog, green frog, green tree frog, northern leopard frog, plains leopard frog, western chorus frog, southern leopard frog, spring peeper, pickerel frog and wood frog.

The toad species are American, fowler’s and spade-foot.

Not all of these are in our area. The crawfish frog is found in the southwestern and west-central area. The southern leopard frog is found mainly in west central and southern Indiana.

Let’s take a look at some of those around here.

Cope’s and the eastern gray tree frog are so similar that the only way to tell them apart is by their sound. Cope’s is found in southern Indiana but also as far north as Muncie, while the eastern is in the north, as far south as Indianapolis. They are about 1¼ to 2 inches, and the color can vary from green, brown, gray to almost black, with a dirty white belly and bright yellow underside of the hind legs.

These are found in trees and shrubs near forests and swamps, but they are also found in farmlands and cities (and my living room window).

Their preferred diet is flying insects, insect larvae, spiders and ants. They hang around near lights to find these things.

They breed from mid-April to the end of July, laying up to 2,000 eggs, which hatch in two to five days.

The green frog is probably our most common. This one gets 2¼ to 3½ inches long, sporting a light olive brown to dark olive green.

Both sexes have large external eardrums, with the male developing a bright yellow throat during the breeding season.

They prefer to live in permanent bodies of water and breed May through August, laying 1,000 to 5,000 eggs at a time.

As for their dietary habits, these frogs will eat just about anything that can be swallowed, including insects, crayfish, spiders, mollusks, fish and other frogs.

Their call sounds like a low-pitched twanging, as in a plucked banjo string.

The spring peeper is one of the smaller frogs being, ¾ to 1 3/8 inches long, with the color going from light tan to dark brown with a white belly. These are the ones that give a high-pitched “peep-peep-peep-peep” just about every second; get a large chorus of these, and it can be quite loud.

They are found in wooded areas that are near permanent or temporarily flooded areas.

They lay their eggs in fishless temporary wetlands, such as vernal pools. The female will deposit 800-1,000 eggs but lays them singly or in clusters of two or three attached to vegetation; these will hatch in three to 15 days.

The breeding season is early March to May.

Their favorite foods are spiders, ants and beetles, but they also enjoy mites, ticks, small caterpillars and small snails.

The bullfrog is a rather large frog, going from 3½ to 6 inches. This is the one that makes the “brr-wum” sound you hear.

The color can be dark brown, greenish gray, light olive or a yellowish green.

Bullfrogs are found in ponds, lakes, stock ponds and the backwater of larger streams.

They breed from May to the end of July, laying 10,000 or more eggs that hatch in two to five days.

Like the green frog, the bullfrog will eat anything it can swallow, including crayfish, insects, worms and snails. The larger ones will include other frogs, small snakes, mice and birds in its diet.

The northern cricket frog runs about 5/8 to 1½ inches with a dark triangle between the eyes. Its call sounds like two marbles clicked together, “gick-gick-gick.”

This will go on for 20 to 30 beats, starting slowly at first then getting faster.

It prefers to live in vegetated shorelines of ponds, lakes, rivers and creeks, dining on aquatic larvae and insects.

This one breeds mid-April to late July, laying 200 to 400 eggs, either singly or in small clusters attached to submerged vegetation; these will hatch in a few days.

Joe Whitfield is a naturalist and gardener for the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department.