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Spring Peeper

Spring Peeper

Pseudacris crucifer

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Amphibian

Description

Spring peepers are small tree frogs. Their bodies have smooth skin in shades of tan, brown, green, or gray, with lines that form an X-shaped pattern on their backs. Their bellies are white to cream-colored, and they have dark bands on their legs and a dark line between their eyes. Spring peepers are well camouflaged to look like tree bark and have some ability to make themselves lighter or darker in order to better match their surroundings. The flat, terminal pad on each of the amphibian’s toes allow it to grip onto plants, while its webbed hind feet give it support. Although they are good climbers, they spend most of their time on the ground, often hiding under leaf litter during the day. Spring peepers are rarely seen, but during mating season in the spring, they are often heard. They are generally about one inch (2.5 centimeters) in length, or about the length of a paper clip, and their weight averages from 0.11 to 0.18 ounces (3 to 5 grams).

Range

Spring peepers can be found from southeastern Canada to the eastern United States, south to northern Florida and west to Minnesota and eastern Texas. They live in moist, wooded areas, fields, and grassy lowlands near ponds and wetlands. Spring peepers hibernate during the winter in soft mud near ponds, under logs, and in holes or loose bark in trees. Snakes, salamanders, large carnivorous insects, raptors, and other birds prey on adult spring peepers. Tadpoles are eaten by aquatic invertebrates and salamander larvae.

Diet

Adult spring peepers come out to feed in the late afternoon and early evening, while subadults feed in the early morning to late afternoon. They generally eat beetles, ants, flies, and spiders. Tadpoles feed on algae and microorganisms.

Life History

Spring peepers are known for the males’ mating call—a high-pitched whistling or peeping sound repeated about 20 times a minute. However, the faster and louder they sing, the greater the chances of attracting a mate. They often congregate near water and sing in trios, with the deepest-voiced frog starting the call. They begin breeding early in the spring and call on warm spring nights and during the day in rainy or cloudy weather. Females lay their eggs in vernal pools, ponds, and other wetlands where fish are not present. A female may lay anywhere from 750 to 1,200 eggs, which attach 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. Tadpoles transform into frogs over the course of 6 to 12 weeks. Spring peepers are said to have short lives, living three to four years at most.

Conservation

These frogs are common and widespread. However, loss of wetland habitat does pose a threat. Populations are decreasing in some areas.

Fun Fact

Spring peepers are very tolerant of cold conditions. They can withstand freezing during winter hibernation due to a natural “antifreeze” in their blood.

Sources

Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Missouri Department of Conservation

NatureServe Explorer

New Hampshire Public Television

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