Gray Tree frogs –Trillin’ in the Treetops”

“With the nights getting cooler, our tree frogs are getting active and one frog in particular stands out. The gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) is a small, cryptically colored tree frog that hangs out high in the trees and is rarely seen by casual observers. This master of camouflage expresses its joy for cooler nights by filling the cool night air with a short and melodious trill. The call, usually answered by other gray tree frogs, joins the chorus of other tree frogs, cicadas, grasshoppers, katydids, and other noisemakers of the night to provide a night time serenade just when it gets cool enough to open the windows!

Two species of gray tree frogs are found in the southeast. One is the gray tree frog and the other is Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis). These two frogs are virtually identical, but their calls vary slightly, with the Cope’s gray tree frog having a slightly faster, rapid trill (of course, to be picky, upon microscopic observation, the gray tree frog differs from the Cope’s gray tree frog by having an extra set of chromosomes). Both tree frogs can vary in color from very pale gray with dark gray patches to light green. Their skin is covered with little tubercles, giving the frog a “warty” appearance, but this only adds to their camouflage, making them virtually invisible against the bark, lichens, and moss where they live. If you are ever fortunate enough to have one of these in hand, the hind legs have a yellowish to golden coloration on the backside, which helps with the positive identification of a gray tree frog. In fact, the scientific name of “chrysoscelis“is Greek, with “chrysos” meaning gold and “scelis” meaning leg.

Gray tree frogs are more numerous than most of us think because we rarely see them. As with other frogs, they are mostly seen and not heard, especially after a good rain. After a nice night time rain shower, step outside on your porch or in your backyard and listen closely. I’m sure you’ll hear the gray tree frog just trillin’ in the treetops, ushering in cooler nights that let us know that fall is right around the corner…

Nature Nook Photography


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