The Songs of Frogs and Toads

Male frogs have tremendously diverse vocalizations, and their sounds can mean different things depending on the listener. Female frogs might assess the quality of a male through the nuances of his call. Male frogs might decide whether or not to fight based on a the sound of another male's call. Predators might think the song signals a tasty treat. People might interpret the songs as a sign of the change of seasons.

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Table of Contents:
American Toad: Bufo americanus
Cane Toad: Rhinella marina
Spring Peeper: Pseudacris crucifer
Western Chorus Frog: Pseudacris triseriata
Pacific Chorus Frog: Pseudacris regilla
Gray Treefrog: Hyla versicolor
Comparing Gray Treefrogs H. chrysoscelis vs. H. versicolor
Green Treefrog: Hyla cinerea
American Bullfrog: Rana catesbeiana
Green Frog: Rana clamitans
Wood Frog: Rana sylvatica
Pickerel Frog: Rana palustris
Ringtones from frog calls
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Calling American Toad

American Toads (Bufo americanus A.K.A. Anaxyrus americanus) have a high pitched trill that can last from six to twelve or more seconds. Its long duration helps distinguish it from the individual "Peeps!" of the Spring Peeper, or the short trill of the Gray Treefrog.

American Toad 2015 Playlist: 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.

American Toad 2016 Playlist: several short videos of American Toads in northeast Ohio. The first set of videos show individual calling male toads before females arrive at the pond. In addition to the long trill of the toads, you can hear the Spring Peepers calling too.

The male Cane Toad (Rhinella marina ) in this video was recorded in July 2019 on Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. Listen to how its call is lower than the trill of the American Toad. The sound of the Cane Toad is much more like a prolonged rattling sound.

Cane Toads are native to Central and South America, but they have been introduced around the world, becoming an invasive pest in many areas. Cane Toads were introduced to Hawaii as early as the 1930s.

Spring Peeper Calling

Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) have a distinctive call that consists of a single high-pitched "Peep!". Individual Spring Peepers can make these peeps in quick succession. When hundreds of Spring Peepers are gathered together on a warm rainy night during the breeding season, the sound can be deafening!

The Spring Peepers' "Peep!" is called an advertisement call because it is used to attract females. A different sound, called an "encounter" call, is used to chase off other males. The encounter call sounds like a short trill. The peeper in this video starts with the peeping advertisement call. But four seconds into the video, a trilling "encounter" call is heard off-camera. The peeper continues to make a few more advertisement peeps, then becomes fed-up 16 seconds into the video, and starts making his own trilling "encounter" call.

Spring Peepers are cute little frogs, but the males will also aggressively battle with other males. In this video, a male spring repeatedly makes a trilling "encounter" call as it walks up a branch to chase off two other peepers.

Western Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris triseriata) are found over much of the eastern United States, and often co-occur with Spring Peepers. Although both Spring Peepers and Western Chorus Frogs are in the same genus, their calls are quite distinct. The calls of the Western Chorus Frog sound like someone running a thumb over a comb, but much louder!

This video shows two different Western Chorus Frogs, each singing by the edge of the pond. You can hear many other Western Chorus Frogs in the background.

pacific chorus frog, Pseudacris regilla

Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla are found over much of the west coast of North America. Like many other frogs, they have both advertisement and encounter calls.

Slow series of advertisement calls.

Rapid series of advertisement calls.

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 Treefrog calling from dead cattail leaves.

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

2013 Gray Treefrog Playlist These three videos show different male gray treefrogs (Hyla versicolor) seen on May evening in Livingston County, Michigan. In the first video you can see a beetle larvae swim past the male. In the second video, you can see the treefrog hidden between two big spatterdock leaves. In the third video, the treefrog is boldly sitting out in the open. This large wetland was full of hundreds of calling male gray treefrogs, as you can tell from the continuous background of their calls.

2016 Gray Treefrog Playlist The first video shows a gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) calling from the trunk of a tree. The treefrog was perched about 4 feet (1.2 meters) above the ground, with his back to the pond. In the second video, a male graytreefrog is calling from a perch on a tree limb hanging directly over a pond. In the background of some of these videos you can also hear the calls of American Toads, Spring Peepers, and Green Frogs.

Comparing Calls of Two Species of Gray Treefrog: There are two species of Gray Treefrog in North America, and they can't be told apart from their external appearance. However, you can identify them by the sound of the males' calls. This video gives examples of the difference in the calls of the two gray treefrog species. The first frog in the video is Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis), which has a high number of trills per second. The second frog is a Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor), which has fewer trills per second. More information on these species can be found at Amphibia Web and Chris Harrison's Frog Blog.

Green Treefrog: This Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) was filmed one damp August night in Georgetown County, South Carolina. Its call reminds me of a slightly high-pitched and nasal-ly "honk". The frog was clinging to a palmetto frond, and several other Green Treefrogs were clustered nearby. I was impressed by how bold the Green Treefrogs were; they did not seem at all bothered by my presences. Years ago, I watched a male Green Treefrog get eaten by a Ribbon snake, so the males' bold behavior can carry some costs with it.

Bellowing American Bullfrog

The foghorn-like call of the American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) is a sign of summer throughout much of eastern North America. And as bullfrogs are invasive in western parts of North America, and elsewhere around the globe, their call can be heard far outside their native range.

The photo to the left shows a calling bullfrog at night. The power of its call is causing ripples on the pond's surface, and flinging drops of water into the air.

This video shows the same American Bullfrog calling at night. As you watch the video you can see the flurry of water drops thorwn into the air. When he stops calling, other bullfrogs respond. The pond was warm, but the night air cool, and some mist can be seen rising around the bullfrog.

green frog, Rana clamitans

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.

This short playlist shows calling Green Frogs in northeastern Ohio observed at night in May. In the background you can hear the calls of American Toads, Gray Treefrogs and Spring Peepers.

Watch the first frog closely: after each call, he pulls his eyes down into his head and quickly covers them with the nictitating membrane. The other green frogs in these videos don't do that.

wood frog, rana sylvatica

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

Video of calling wood frogs.

Pickerel Frog in shallow stream.

Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris) sound a bit like a fast, nasal purr. The call can also be described as a snore. Pickerel frogs are related to the leopard frogs, and have a similar call. However, leopard frogs often have a series of grunts incorporated into their calls. Here is an example of a Leopard Frog call from the Cornell Lab Of Ornithology's Macaulay Library (catalogue number ML182028).

This video shows a calling Pickerel Frog; in the background are the high-pitched calls of Spring Peepers. I was very pleased to get this video after a couple of years of trying. Pickerel Frogs can call from underwater, and at this site usually hide in thick vegetation. The male Pickerel Frog in this video was calling above the water from the edge of the vegetation, allowing me to get a recording. .

Frog Call Ringtones & Alert Sounds
One-second clip of calling American Toad
.mr4 for iPhone
.mp3 for Android
Two-second clip of calling American Toad
.mr4 for iPhone
.mp3 for Android
Ten-second clip of calling American Toad
.mr4 for iPhone
.mp3 for Android
One-second clip of calling Gray Treefrog
.mr4 for iPhone
.mp3 for Android

I've made a few short ringtones for use in smartphones. Using the links to the left, you can download .m4r files for iPhone ringtones or .mp3 files for Android ringtones. If you aren't sure how to put the files into your phones, there are a number of decent ringtone tutorials for iPhone and for Android that can show you how to use the files as ringtones.

I like the short (1 - 2 seconds) clips for text alert sounds. The 10-second call could work for a ringtone. I'll add some longer (30 second) calling sequences soon.

Treefrog Singing on Leaf

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 Snake Image Gallery Spotted Salamander Button
back to home Telling apart male and female frogs Kingsnake eating a garter snake
Albino Toad Egg Development Salamander Image Gallery Coloring page of snakes