Though most breeding occurs by early June, gray tree frogs sing throughout the summer, especially on cool, wet nights. If ever you find one, you'll be impressed by the big sound that comes from such a small creature. Gray tree frogs usually measure less than two inches in length, and their appearance varies.
Depending on light, temperature, moisture, stress or activity level, they may be gray, green or brown. Thanks to this coloration, they are extremely difficult to spot, even during the day. Two fairly reliable field marks, however, are bright orange inner hind legs and, unlike most frogs, coarse skin. Their body is quite warty, though the individual warts are much smaller than those found on toads.
Gray tree frogs leave the safety of trees for the ground for only two reasons.
Like most amphibians, they gather at water's edge to mate. Responding to the males' song, females locate males and engage in a mating embrace called amplexus. As the female releases as many as 1,000 individual eggs, the male fertilizes them. The eggs drift downward or float away and eventually settle on aquatic vegetation, sticks, or other submerged debris.
In six to 12 days, depending on water temperature, the eggs hatch into tadpoles with red tails. In two to three months, again depending on temperature, the tadpoles transform into small frogs.
As winter approaches, gray tree frogs again leave their arboreal refuge to seek shelter under logs or leaf litter. There they remain dormant until spring, when their cycle of life resumes.
Send questions/comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, West Virginia 26033 or via email to sshala...@aol.com