The Little Frog with the Big Voice

Author: Steve Ellis | 05/01/19
       

Pacific Chorus Frog

A young Pacific Chorus Frog rests on a water hyacinth. Photo by Greg Green.

Pacific Chorus Frog lives up to its name

Warm spring nights elicit a barrage of loud calls from area ponds. The voice behind these sounds comes from the Pacific Chorus Frog, our smallest native amphibian that just happens to have the loudest voice.

Formerly known as Pacific Tree Frog, Chorus Frogs measure 1½ to 2 inches as adults. Females are somewhat larger than males. They come in variations of green or brown and can alter their color according to the brightness of the background habitat. A black mask and suction cup toes round out their field marks.

The amazingly loud calls come from the males’ expandable throat patch. Males call from the edges of breeding ponds or from the water’s surface. They inflate the throat patch to three times the size of their head in order to project their kre-eck (rib-bit) advertisement calls to the females.

Sporadic calling can happen any time of year when the ambient temperature is above 40 degrees. Any spring night with temperatures above 50 degrees activates the true chorus as males compete to attract mates.

This chorus can be heard across great distances. Males will switch to an encounter call if another male comes too close or when a rival frog hits the 87 decibel (dB) level. To put that in perspective, most human conversation occurs in the 50 dB range, and police sirens are at about 100 dB.

Pacific Chorus Frogs are important to local habitats, and beneficial to us, because they consume large numbers of insects, slugs, and other invertebrates. They’re also prey for fish, garter snakes, and birds such as American Bittern and Virginia Rail.

You can attract our official state amphibian to your yard if there’s a nearby water source that lasts at least three months. Leave a border of tall grass to give the adults a place to hide. Plantings of salal and other shrubs provide shelter for these little frogs with a big voice.

  • About the author: Steve Ellis is a noted Coupeville area naturalist.