The birds do it, the bees do it, and now the frogs are doing it. There’s a small clump of trees between two of the houses across the street, and I think that’s where a male Pacific chorus frog has staked his claim. Every evening for the past few weeks I’ve heard him singing away. Often you’ll hear several frogs singing at the same time, but this particular guy’s call is much louder and more piercing than the others. What I particularly like about this sound recording is that it begins with a solo, and other frogs join in to make a joyful noise.
The Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilla), sometimes erroneously referred to as the Pacific tree frog, is the only frog that ribbits. It couldn’t possibly be mistaken for anything else. In fact, its song is so iconic of “frogness” that it is universally used in movies and other Hollywood products taking place anywhere in the world, despite the fact that this little singer lives only along the western coast of the US.
Why is it wrong to call these guys tree frogs? Because they don’t live in trees, silly! At least, not exclusively in trees. Along the central California coast they live in grassy areas from the coast up into the hills. I start hearing them in winter, as the rains form puddles and small ponds, but they stop singing when they hear people approaching. To me, they are part of the soundtrack of spring in California. While most of the singing happens at night, I often hear them singing during the day at the marine lab. Many times the males are singing together — hence the name chorus frogs.
Considering their ability to make a lot of noise, Pacific chorus frogs are little guys. Big ones are only 5 cm long. They vary in color from brown to green, and the color of an individual can change throughout the year. They have a very distinctive dark horizontal stripe that runs through the eye, making them look like, well, chorus frogs.
Like all frogs, chorus frogs are tied to water for reproduction. Once the rains have started, male frogs migrate to wet areas and set up shop. Their “krick-et” calls attract females, and the frogs pair up and do what comes naturally to most animals in the springtime. The female lays eggs in calm, still water and the male fertilizes them as they are deposited. Tadpoles develop in the water and, hopefully, metamorphose into froglets in due time.
Eventually the mating season will end, and the frogs will stop singing until next year’s rains. I will miss them when they go away, but for the next little while the soundtrack of spring will play every evening.