Spring and early summer find the surrounds of my little house on a hill singing loudly at night. A series of trills puts me to sleep, the source is lots of small gray tree frogs. They gather at various watering holes, united in their desire to make babies.
As a gardener, and lover of nature, I keep water containers, five total, around my house. One is a horse trough, really serving the last chicken and three guinea fowl, but a gathering place for the tree frogs. Our native tree frog, or at least the most common species is Hyla versicolor, the species epithet for its ability to change colors.
When breeding season arrives, anytime from late April to July, the chorus is loud as males sing for their female audience. The lady frog listens intently, her mating choice will be the male with the loudest and most prolonged song. A pouch on the male’s neck expands and deflates as he sings. If he spies a female, his notes become more melodious, he tries harder to sing the perfect tune.
There will be no fondling, she will lay her eggs in the water nearby and he follows, fertilizing them in place. Once eggs are fertilized, they break into loose clusters, attaching themselves to plants and sticks underwater. In six to eight weeks, the small green baby frogs arrive, transformed from tadpole to frog.
Adult gray tree frogs feed on insects and larvae, including mosquitoes and gnats. On dry land they feed on spiders and various insects such as beetles and ants. Tadpoles eat algae and other lower forms of plant life. The small frogs that emerge from the water containers are not even as large as my thumbnail, I imagine a tiny mite could be a big enough meal.
The range for the gray tree frog is enormous. From the middle of the United States to the east coast, north to southern Canada and south to northern Florida, we are in the middle of their north-south range. There are many interesting facts with gray tree frogs, their feet have toe pads which produce a mucus to help them cling to vertical services. The pattern on their back looks like lichen, a camouflage that also works with their ability to change colors. The calling of males is often how they are stalked by predators, particularly by bull frogs, so the population tends to be female dominate. They will not gather around water with fish, for obvious reasons. Green is the predominate color in younger frogs, but more mature frogs can alter their color, not as fast as a chameleon, but within 30 minutes.