Florida's Nightly Frog Chorus
the summer rains return in May, the amphibian
chorus in the swamps and lowlands increases to its loudest pitch
of the year. With the rain comes the mating time, and the evenings echo
with the earnest croaks and calls of earnest suitors.
But these sounds
also spill over into the daytime as the tiny frogs often prove more
accurate at weather forecasting than the most sophisticated
computers. They react to the change in humidity or
barometric pressure, even during the daytime.
sends the animals into a noisy state of anticipation that turns raucously
delirious once the first drops start to fall. It takes only minutes
for the cries to reach the fevered intensity of a wild
The thousands of froggy
voices sometimes make it seem that every square inch of lowlands
must be layered in piles of the animals, yet the cacophony always drastically
under-represents the number present. It is only the
males singing. Females are close to mute, and immature males also do
not croak, ribbit or quonk, quonk, quonk.
There are more than 50
species of frogs living in Florida and the Southeast, many
of them a variety of tree frog. Like construction workers whistling
to passing females, they have developed the practice of calling
for a mate because it is the safest way to avoid predators.
Performing individually, in public, with a display
like some other animals use, is simply too risky.
Of course, the simple act of calling out also alerts predators,
but there is safety in numbers, one reason why the calls are issued
as a chorus. The combined sounds also carry farther
to distant females.
Tree frog vocalizations
cover a tremendous array. Some sounds are more like those of insects
or birds than those normally associated with frogs. The names
of some species in fact reflects their calls.
Barking tree frogs
bark, squirrel tree frogs are raspy like a squirrel, the bird-voiced
tree frog. have a high-pitched, bird-like whistle, and the southern
spring peeper which "peep peeps."
The green tree frog.
confuses the entire matter by issuing a tremendous variety of sounds
that have been compared to a cow bell or a noise similar to "quonk,
quonk, quonk," among others. The size of a frog
helps determine the pitch of its call. Larger frogs
have a lower pitch, smaller frogs a higher one.
Tree frogs tend to be heard
far more often than seen because the markings and coloration
of many varieties closely resembles their surroundings. Furthermore,
many are quite adept at hiding under tree bark, in knotholes, or under
Listen to the Night Chorus on this page with a variety of sounds recorded at Eco Pond in Everglades National Park.
Go listen to your own frog chorus, always best after a rain.
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