The songs of frogs and toads

Male frogs have tremendously diverse vocalizations. The sounds they produce have different meanings to different listeners. Female frogs might assess the quality of a male through a call. Male frogs might decide whether or not to fight based on a the sound of a call. Predators often use calls to turn male frogs into a tasty treat. For people, the calls of frogs signal many things, such as the change of seasons, the warmth of summer, or the arrival of rain.

Over the last few years I've had the opportunity to take a few videos and audio recordings of some frogs and toads. I've posted them below . . . hope you enjoy!

  
American Toad, Bufo americanus

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Audio recording of some calling American Toads (Bufo americanus).

The playlist to the left shows four short videos of American Toad breeding behavior. The first video shows two toads calling to each other. The second video shows a toad calling next to a spring peeper. The third video shows some male toads trying to break apart two amplexed pairs of toads. The fourth video shows a group of four males battling each other to mate with a single female toad.

spring peeper, Pseudacris crucifer

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Calls from spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer).

This video shows a complication of observations from Michigan in 2010. It starts with a view of a pond at sunset; peepers can be heard around the pond. Then a view of a spring peeper calling is shown. At 24 seconds into the video, a head-on shot of a spring peeper is shown. At 35 seconds, there is a view of a a male and female spring peeper in amplexus. The video ends with another view of a calling male spring peeper.

Many hypotheses have been proposed for why frogs have evolved large vocal sacs. One hypothesis is that the pulsating vocal sac serves as a visual signal to attract females. The head-on video of the calling male peeper at 24 seconds seems suggestive of a visual signal.

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Calls from Western Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris triseriata).

Video of calling chorus frogs.
pacific chorus frog, Pseudacris regilla

Pacific Chorus Frog calls.

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Slow series of advertisement calls.

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Rapid series of advertisement calls.

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Encounter call.

These calls were recorded in 2003 at the UC Quail Ridge Reserve.

The video to the left shows a top-down view of a calling male pacific chorus frog. This video provides a nice visual illustration of another function of the vocal sac: to refill the lungs after calling. As you watch the video, you can see the relationship between the vocal sac and the lungs. Sound is produced as the frog forces air out of its lungs into the vocal sac. The air rushing out of the lungs passes through the vocal cords, creating the frog call. As the lungs deflate, the body appears to get smaller as the vocal sac expands. But after the frog is done calling, the air is forced from the vocal sac back into the lungs. You can see this happen as the vocal sac gets smaller and the frog's body appears to get larger as it fills with air.

gray tree frog, Hyla versicolor

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Gray Tree Frogs (Hyla versicolor) recorded and photographed while calling in Livingston Co., Michigan.

A playlist of three videos shows calling behavior in the gray treefrog.

wood frog, rana sylvatica

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A group of calling Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica). Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) can be heard in the background.

Video of calling wood frogs.
green frog, Rana clamitans

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A calling green frog (Rana clamitans) observed one warm July night. It is often said that their call is similar to a person picking at a banjo.

All text and photographs Michael F. Benard
email contact: mfbenard -{at}- gmail dot com

Some more pages on herps and natural history:
Pacific Chorus Frog Natural History Coloring page of snakes Spotted Salamander Button
Leech eats frog eggs Water Bug Eating Frog Button Kingsnake eating a garter snake
Redback Salamander Mother with Eggs Water bug with limpet snails Snake eats frog