Another Frog Friday has arrived! This week’s spotlight shines on the Squirrel Treefrog, a species with some fascinating behaviors and who gets its name from the squirrel-like, chattering call it makes after rain showers. These little frogs of 1 – 1.5 inches in length may be found throughout southeastern Virginia as well as the southern Eastern Shore.
Squirrel Treefrogs are extremely variable in coloration and they can even change color, like a chameleon! They range from green to yellowish to brown. They can also be either spotted or plain. Some have bars between their eyes and some have light broken stripes down their sides. With so much variation in their appearance, it may seem impossible to distinguish it from other treefrog species. However, this can be accomplished through the process of elimination: Green Treefrogs usually have a white stripe down their sides, Barking Treefrogs are larger and have more texture on their skin, and Gray and Pine-woods Treefrogs have bright yellow or spots on their inner thighs. Like other treefrogs, Squirrel Treefrogs have enlarged toe pads that help them cling to surfaces.
This species primarily lives in coastal habitats and is most commonly found in moist, open woods near a water source, such as a ditch, pond or swamp. They also may live along streams, around seasonal wetlands, or in gardens. At night, these nocturnal animals can often be found around houses, attracted by the insects drawn by porch lights.
Like their namesake, these frogs are extremely active and often climb trees. Even though they are nocturnal, Squirrel Treefrogs will forage for insects during the day when it is raining. They may even “drop from the sky” as they fall from a perch in pursuit of an insect!
Breeding season for this species is April – August. They breed in shallow ponds and ditches. The male breeding call is described as a nasal, duck-like “waaak” that is repeated every half second. The squirrel-like call that gives the Squirrel Treefrog its name is its “rain call”; it sounds like a squirrel’s scolding rasp. Because of their tendency to call during and after rain showers, these frogs are also sometimes referred to as “rain frogs.”
Squirrel Treefrog Breeding Call and “Rain Call”:
This article is presented as part of our year-long Virginia is for Frogs campaign. Please visit the campaign webpage to learn more about Virginia’s 27 frog species and ways that you can become involved in their conservation. Are you an educator? Check out the Virginia is for Frogs Teacher’s Corner for frog-related lesson plans and activities.