One way to tell it is spring is to listen for the spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer). As the weather warms, the males of this tiny frog species start singing to find a mate. The best places to hear them are near a still body of water such as vernal ponds, wetlands, swamps and ponds. Bodies of water with tall grasses or woods nearby and lacking a fish population will have the most. The chorus starts in mid-March, peaks in April and continues through May and sometimes into June. But good luck trying see one! They are nocturnal, very well camouflaged and are rather small – spring peepers are about 1 inch long.
Spring peepers get their name because they are one of the first frogs to begin singing and mating each year. Due to their small size, they are at high risk for predation, and the cooler spring weather helps reduce the amount of predators that are active at night. Because of the lower predation rate, the spring peepers’ survival rate is higher. Predators of spring peepers include snakes, larger frogs, fish and birds.
After females have mated, they lay gelatinous eggs in rows underwater. The eggs are attached to submerged vegetation. A female will lay about 750 to 1,300 eggs in her 3-year lifespan. The tadpoles hatch in 4–15 days and undergo metamorphosis into frogs 6–8 weeks later. The tadpole offspring eat algae and decaying plant material and require no parental care.
Outside of mating season, these frogs live mainly in woodland areas and feed on beetles, ants, flies, spiders and other insects. In winter, they hibernate under logs or behind loose bark. Up to 70% of their body can freeze in the winter while hibernating! Don’t worry, they will thaw out and reemerge to sing again as the weather warms again.
Ellen Meehan, Nature Interpreter, Parky’s Farm