Spring Peepers

     For many people throughout the eastern United States, the sound of spring peepers is a herald of spring. 

     As soon as the ice has melted on the wetlands, these diminutive forest frogs take up residence at the edge of a pond or vernal pool, in or near a forest.   Well-hidden near the bases of grasses and shrubs, the males take up their mating call in earnest.  Launching their song around dusk, they may well continue their throaty chirps for much of the night.  

     Rarely does one hear a spring peeper peeping alone.  “Under most conditions, but especially during the moist, spring nights that are most conducive to reproduction, a chorus of peepers is heard,” says Jennifer Frick-Ruppert in her book Mountain Nature:  A Seasonal History of the Southern Appalachians.

      After a singing male does find his mate and breeds, the female lays a clutch of eggs, about 900 of them (!), at the water’s edge.  The eggs soon hatch, and during their larval stage, the peepers feed on algae and other water organisms.  Six to eight weeks after hatching, the young frogs are ready to leave the water.  They disperse into underbrush and low trees.

     While they have the large toe pads typical of tree frogs, spring peepers don’t climb high into trees.  Instead, they spend more of their time hunting for food amid low vegetation and in the loose debris of the forest floor.  Spring peepers are nocturnal carnivores.  Their night-time meals include small invertebrates like beetles, ants, flies, and spiders. 

     Although only about an inch long, the spring peeper is hardy.  In the northern parts of its range, it can withstand occasional sub-freezing temperatures during its breeding season.   It can even tolerate the freezing of some of its body fluids!  During the winter, spring peepers may hibernate under logs or inside loose bark on trees.  Typically, a spring peeper lives about three years in the wild. 

     In appearance, most spring peepers are some shade of brown or grey.  They are easily recognizable by the dark X on their backs.  The male’s coloring is usually a little brighter than the female’s, and he is usually a little smaller than she is. 

     There are two sub-species of spring peeper, the northern and the southern.  While the northern is found all over the eastern U.S. and Canada, the southern is limited to north Florida and south Georgia. 

     If you have a half-minute to spare, click here Watch a spring peeper peeping!You’ll see the vocal sac’s massive expansion and deflation that makes the frog’s famous ‘peep.’ Spring is here!–April Moore

3 Responses to “Spring Peepers”

  1. Diane Artz Furlong Says:

    Wow! All the stuff here I’ve always wanted to know about them. I’m particularly gratified to hear they do NOT live in trees as I have been very concerned about the new neighbor cutting down much of the woods separating our properties. The peeper symphony there is always a welcomed rite of spring.

  2. Elizabeth H. Cottrell Says:

    Fantastic! Thanks for edifying us and finding this awesome video.

  3. Judy Muller Says:

    So sweet and delightful and fascinating. Looks like a tiny balloon, or maybe a bubble just blown. So delicate yet strong. Just beautiful.

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