Scientific Name: Pseudacris crucifer
Description: Spring peepers are small tree frogs. They are shades of tan, brown, green or gray, with smooth skin, lines that form an X on their backs and a white to cream-colored belly. They are well camouflaged to look like tree bark and have some ability to make themselves lighter or darker in color to better match their surroundings. They have dark bands on their legs and a dark line between their eyes. The flat, terminal pad on each toe allows them to grip onto plants, while their webbed hind feet supply support. Although they are good climbers, they spend most of their time on the ground. They often hide during the day under leaf litter and come out to feed in the afternoon and evening. They are rarely seen, but during mating season in the spring they are often heard. Their high-pitched, loud and piercing call can be deafening to humans when they congregate.
Size: They are generally 1 to 1.5 inches in length, about the length of a paper clip. Their weight will average from 0.11 to 0.18 ounces.
Diet: The adults generally eat beetles, ants, flies and spiders. Tadpoles feed on algae, detritus and microorganisms.
Predation: Snakes, salamanders, large carnivorous insects, raptors and other birds prey on adult spring peepers. Tadpoles are eaten by aquatic invertebrates and salamander larvae.
Typical Lifespan: Spring peepers are said to have short lives, living three to four years at most.
Habitat: They live in moist wooded areas, fields and grassy lowlands near ponds and wetlands. They mate and lay their eggs in vernal pools, ponds and other wetlands without fish.
Range: Spring peepers can be found from southeastern Canada throughout the eastern United States, south to northern Florida and west to Minnesota and eastern Texas.
Life History and Reproduction: Spring peepers hibernate during the winter in soft mud near ponds, under logs and in holes or loose bark in trees. They begin breeding early in the spring. Males congregate primarily near vernal pools and ponds and start singing to attract a mate. The faster and louder they sing, the greater the chances of attracting a mate. Females lay anywhere from 750-1,200 eggs attached to submerged aquatic vegetation. Males fertilize the eggs as they are laid. Depending on the temperature, eggs can hatch within two days to two weeks. The tadpoles have gills to breathe underwater and tails to help them swim. The tadpoles metamorphose into frogs over the course of six to twelve weeks.
Communication: Spring peepers are known for the males’ mating calls—a high-pitched whistling or peeping sound repeated about twenty times a minute. They often sing in trios, with the deepest-voiced frog starting the call. They call on warm spring nights and during the day during rainy or cloudy weather.
Fun Fact: They are very tolerant of cold conditions. Spring peepers can withstand freezing during winter hibernation due to a natural ‘antifreeze’ in their blood.
Conservation Status: Spring peepers are common and widespread. However, loss of wetland habitat does pose a threat. Populations are decreasing in some areas.
Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Missouri Department of Conservation
NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life
New Hampshire Public Television