Pacific Treefrog

AKA Pacific Chorus Frog

Pseudacris regilla (AKA Hyla regilla)

 

Pacific treefrog tracks found at Hidden Springs beach, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California. Feb. 7, 2000.

Pacific Treefrog Tracks

Click to hear the treefrogs croak. These were recorded along the south fork of the Eel River in Humboldt County, California on March 5, 2000.

Click to hear a treefrog croak.
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Natural History of Pacific Treefrogs

Pacific treefrog in tan color phase. The Pacific treefrog is a small frog common in California, Oregon and Washington. In the spring, their calls are commonly heard near riparian areas. They are the only western frog whose call is a ribbit. Their toes have little rounded toe pads on them. These help the frog to climb and stick to things. Pacific treefrogs can be either green or tan in color, but all have a dark eye stripe. Eggs are laid underwater, attached to vegetation, in round-ish clumps about an inch in diameter. The tiny eggs are visible as dark dots in the jelly-like egg mass. As they develop, you can see the tiny tadpoles grow tails. When they are about ready to hatch, the tadpoles will start to squirm inside the egg mass.

The tadpoles are small and dark. You will find them in ponds, puddles, rivers and streams. As the tadpoles metamorphose into frogs, they are able to leave the water and live on land.

Treefrog tracks sometimes show the outline of the animal’s entire body. They move about by hopping. You will find all four feet and sometimes even the impression of the frog’s belly in the tracks. Look for their tracks near water. I have even found them in sand dunes near the ocean, although the frogs did not go into the salt water. Hind feet are larger than the front ones and show five toes. Front feet are turned inward and have four toes.

Treefrog tracks. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Treefrog tracks in mud.

 

Treefrog tracks found in mud. Direction of travel is pointed out by the red arrow. Look carefully at the tips of the toes here and you will see the slightly bulbous tips that indicate these are the tracks of the Pacific tree frog. Another name for this frog is Pacific chorus frog.
 

tree frog in grass. Photo by Kim A. Cabrera 2002.

Tree frog in grass. Notice how well the frog blends into its surroundings.

 

Tree frog camo. Photo by Kim A. Cabrera 2002.

Tree frog on vegetation. Again, its color helps it blend into its surroundings.

 

Treefrog tracks underwater. Copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

These treefrog tracks were found underwater in a shallow puddle on a dirt road. The frog had swam and used its hind feet to propel it across the bottom of the puddle.
 

Treefrog tracks underwater. Copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

A section of the underwater treefrog trail above. The frog had stopped and made a turn in this photo. These tracks are still underwater in this image. When the puddle dries out, they may remain.

 

Pacific tree frog habitat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Treefrog habitat. This is where I found the two frogs below. It was a stream that ran out onto a river bar before becoming subterranean. The frogs thrived here, even in mid-summer.
 

Pacific tree frog green color. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

This treefrog is showing the green color phase. The skin can change to match the environment. Green or brown. The change is not quick like a chameleon though.

 

Pacific tree frog brown color. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A treefrog showing the brown color. These frogs were both only half an inch long.

 
A tiny treefrog with dime for size comparison. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

When they first metamorphose into frogs, they are extremely small. This tiny frog still has a remnant of its tadpole tail.

 
Treefrog enjoying the sun at river's edge.  Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

An adult treefrog with bright green coloring. The edge of the river is a great habitat and there were many frogs found there the day this photo was taken. Notice the nice round sticky toe pads. These help treefrogs climb many surfaces.

 
 Treefrog or chorus frog? The problem with common names. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The name of this frog seems to be undergoing a change. I learned it as Pacific treefrog, but it is now being called the Pacific chorus frog. This illustrates the difficulty with using common names for animal species. The scientific names can change as scientists learn more and reclassify species, but they don't change as often as the common names.

 

Pacific treefrog being relocated. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2003.

A treefrog I had to relocate. It's sitting in a styrofoam cup for this photo. It was living in an sink at a summer camp. Plenty of moisture, but not a good place for a frog to live. I imagine the soap would be harmful to their delicate skin, if nothing else. This frog seemed much happier in the pond!
 
The frog that lives in the sink. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
This is the frog that lives in the sink.
 
The frog that lives in the sink. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The summer climate here in the redwood forest is dry and hot. This frog has found a creative solution to being around water in the hot summer months. It lives in the sink drain!

 
The treefrog that lives in the sink. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
The frog living in the sink
 

Treefrog on a trail. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Beautiful treefrog found on a trail in a mixed forest.

 

Treefrog on a trail. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A side view of a treefrog found on a trail.

 

Treefrog on a car windshield. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

This little treefrog was tagging along as a rider one day. My friend and I looked over and saw him riding on the windshield outside the car as we drove down the road! We stopped and caught him and took him to be released at a pond. (A much better place than riding around on a car!) Photo taken from inside the car, with frog on outside of windshield.
 

Treefrog being released in a pond environmentl. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The hitch-hiking treefrog from the photo above is much happier in the pond where he was released.

 

Treefrog in the sink. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The frog in the sink peeks out of a hole!

 

Male treefrog showing chin colorl. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

This is a male treefrog. If you look under the chin, the males will have dark chins like this.

 
 

Treefrog life cycle

One of the sounds of spring is the croaking of the frogs. You can hear them at night and during the day. Sometimes the air will seem alive with their calls. Then, suddenly they will all stop calling at once, leaving silence. If you listen carefully, you may hear one frog croak, then another join in, then another and another until they are all croaking again. Why do frogs call in the spring? They are looking for mates. This is the time of year when frogs reproduce. Look carefully at the edges of ponds and in puddles and streams. You may find tiny jelly-like objects with eggs inside. This is the egg mass of the frog. Some frogs lay eggs in long strings. Others lay them in clusters. The egg masses are usually attached to vegetation so they don't wash away.

Tadpole before growing large.

Frogs start out life in ponds and puddles. When the eggs hatch, they release tiny tadpoles. These grow into frogs eventually.

As tadpoles get older, they grow larger. Soon, these tadpoles will begin to develop legs so they can make the transition to life on land. At this stage, they still need water to live.

Tadpoles with no legs yet.
Different stages of growth.

The tadpoles on the left are in three different stages of life. The top one has arms and legs and the tail is disappearing. The middle one is still fairly large and has stubs of legs. The bottom one has legs, but a long tail. In a couple weeks, they should all be ready to leave the water.

The tail does not fall off. It is re-absorbed into the body. The animal uses the nutrients stored in the tail.

Tadpole showing tail detail.
Tadpole with legs and tail.

At this stage, the tadpole can spend a longer time outside the water.

These tadpoles look more like the frogs they will soon be. Their legs and arms are well-developed and they use them more and more to get around. They are also beginning to acquire the green color they will have as adult frogs.

Two tadpoles who are almost frogs.
Almost a frog.

This frog will be ready to come out of the water within days. The tail is almost completely re-absorbed. The eyestripe characteristic of the species is visible.

The legs and feet on these tadpoles are well developed.

Several
Tadfrog with almost disappeared tail.

This tadpole will soon be able to survive on land and breathe oxygen.

Thsi tiny frog is experiencing his first day on land. Note the stub of a tail. This will be absorbed into the frog's body and disappear. This frog is beginning to acquire the green skin characteristic of this species. Also note the eyestripe. See photo below of an adult with green coloration.

Treefrog first day out of the water.
Treefrog and penny for size. Frog is 1/2 inch long.

Same frog as above with penny for size comparison. The frog was 1/2 inch long. It will eventually grow to about 2 or 3 inches long.

Watch ponds and puddles for these tiny life forms. You can easily observe the life cycle of the frog every spring. Frogs are found almost everywhere, even in the city. They are one of the most interesting animals to watch.

 

Personal Notes on Pacific Treefrogs

 

Everywhere I have lived in California, I have heard these frogs. They are common and very pleasant to listen to on warm evenings. In spring, I find their egg masses in roadside ditches on old logging roads and in small puddles everywhere. The tiny eggs are no bigger than a grain of rice. The whole mass would fit in a teaspoon. It's neat to watch the little tadpoles grow inside their jelly cases. When they start looking like tadpoles, you can gently nudge the egg mass and they will squirm around inside. Don't be too rough with the egg mass though. You don't want to damage them. The little globules of jelly are only about an inch around and contain maybe 50 eggs. The tiny tadpoles are fascinating. Pacific treefrog in green color phase.
I've moved the egg masses from puddles that were in danger of drying up. I put them in larger bodies of water so they'll have a chance of surviving. If you do this, be very careful to attach the mass to something so it doesn't wash away. When you find the mass, it's probably attached to a stick or something. Try to move the anchor with the mass if possible. I wouldn't move one unless it was in danger of being destroyed or dried out. The frogs and tadpoles in the life cycle pictures above were all moved from two dried up puddles. I found them laying there gasping for air and moved them all to a puddle with a constant water supply. They have all managed to survive and many are already through with the tadpole stage of life and are frogs. I hope to hear their calls next spring. If you find tadpoles in a puddle that will soon dry up, move them to a deeper puddle if you can.
 

Tadpoles in a drying puddle. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

These tadpoles were in a small puddle that was in the process of drying up. I had to scoop them out and take them to a deep pond, where they would be able to survive. This puddle would have been gone in a day. Unfortunately, this often happens to tadpoles. The weather may not cooperate and their puddles dry up before they have a chance to finish becoming frogs.

 

Tadpoles rescued from a drying puddle. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

Close-up of the rescued tadpoles.

 

Tadpole and egg mass rescued from a drying puddle. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

An egg mass and a tadpole that were rescued from a drying puddle.

 

Treefrog tracks in mud. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera.

This photo shows the hopping tracks of a treefrog in silty mud. This type of soil is ideal for showing the details of the tracks of small, lightweight animals like frogs and mice.
 

Pseudacris regilla

I think all treefrogs are fascinating creatures. The Pacific treefrog can be either green or a tan color, but they always have that eyestripe.

Pacific tree frog green color. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

These two frogs were found in the same pool. They are the same species. One has the bright green skin that indicates it's been hiding in the vegetation. The one below was found closer to the rocks and its skin was camouflaged accordingly. Their skin color can change to match the environment, being with green or brown. Both of these tiny frogs were only half an inch long!
Pacific tree frog brown color. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
 

A treefrog on my finger.

 

Same treefrog showing the eyestripe.

 

 

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