Gray Tree Frog: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

The Gray Tree Frog is a fascinating and adaptable amphibian found throughout the eastern United States. These small creatures, usually measuring between 1.25-2 inches for males and 1.5-2.25 inches for females, are known for their ability to change color and masterfully blend into their surroundings National Zoo.

Their range covers a vast area from northern Florida to central Texas and up to parts of the eastern seaboard. Gray Tree Frogs primarily inhabit wooded areas, displaying remarkable skill in climbing trees thanks to their adhesive pads on fingers and toes. With a variety of color options from green to gray, brown, or even dark brown, these frogs can seamlessly blend with the tree bark Missouri Department of Conservation.

Some notable features of Gray Tree Frogs include:

  • Rough, warty skin
  • A musical birdlike trill call
  • Adhesive pads on fingers and toes for climbing
  • Ability to change color depending on surroundings

Living in harmony with nature, these charming frogs play an essential role in maintaining the ecological balance in their habitats. So the next time you step into a forest, keep an eye out for these marvelous and elusive creatures.

Basic Information

Scientific Name

The Gray Tree Frog is scientifically known as Hyla versicolor.

Size

Gray Tree Frogs are small creatures with adult males measuring between 1.25-2 inches (32-52 millimeters) in length. Females are usually slightly larger, ranging from 1.5-2.25 inches (38-60 millimeters) in length.

Lifespan

Being small in size, Gray Tree Frogs have a comparatively shorter lifespan.

Features:

  • Small size
  • Warty skin
  • Adhesive pads on fingers and toes

Characteristics:

  • Color varies from green to light greenish gray, gray, brown, or dark brown
  • Often has large, irregular dark blotches
  • Males and females differ in size

Now you have a concise idea about Gray Tree Frogs’ basic information, including their scientific name, size, and lifespan.

Physical Appearance

Change Colors

Gray tree frogs are known for their ability to change colors. They can vary from green, brown, gray, to almost black. This allows them to camouflage themselves in their environment.

Throat

Male and female gray tree frogs have different throat appearances. Males typically have darker throats, while females have lighter ones.

Hind Legs

A distinct feature of gray tree frogs is the bright yellow color on the underside of their hind legs. This helps them in communication and can act as a warning signal to predators.

Unique Features

  • Gray tree frogs are small in size, with adult males measuring around 1.25-2 inches in length and females being slightly larger at 1.5-2.25 inches.
  • They have adhesive pads on their fingers and toes, allowing them to climb.

Comparison Table: Male vs Female Gray Tree Frogs

Feature Male Female
Size 1.25-2 inches 1.5-2.25 inches
Throat Color Darker Lighter

In summary, gray tree frogs have a unique appearance and features that help them adapt to their environment, blend in, and communicate. They can change colors, have distinctive yellow hind legs, and vary in size and throat color between males and females.

Habitat and Distribution

North America

Gray tree frogs are native to North America, specifically in the eastern United States, southeastern Canada, and parts of central Texas and Oklahoma. They primarily reside in wooded areas, ponds, swamps, and forests1.

Eastern United States

  • Common in the eastern United States
  • Range from northern Florida to central Texas1

Southeastern Canada

  • Found in southeastern parts of Canada
  • Prefer moist habitats with a moderate climate2

Central Texas

  • Inhabit central Texas regions
  • Thrive in areas of mixed forest and wetland ecosystems2

Oklahoma

  • Gray tree frogs are present in Oklahoma
  • They can be found near small bodies of water in forests and wetland areas3

Comparison Table

Region Habitat Preference Climate
Eastern US Wooded areas, ponds, swamps, forests Various
Southeast Canada Moist habitats Moderate
Central Texas Mixed forests and wetland ecosystems Warm
Oklahoma Forests and wetland areas near water Humid

Behavior and Communication

Nocturnal

Gray tree frogs are primarily nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the night. This nocturnal behavior allows them to avoid predators and find food more efficiently.

Climbing

These frogs have excellent climbing abilities, attributed to their specialized toe pads. These arboreal creatures can be found high up in trees or clinging to various surfaces.

Hibernation

During colder months, gray tree frogs undergo hibernation. They protect themselves by producing a substance that prevents their bodies from freezing. This unique adaptation allows them to survive in freezing temperatures.

Mating Calls

Male gray tree frogs use a distinct mating call to attract females during breeding season. These calls consist of a series of distinct trills that help them establish territories and attract females.

Features:

  • Nocturnal behavior
  • Excellent climbing abilities
  • Unique hibernation adaptation
  • Distinct mating calls

Characteristics:

  • Arboreal lifestyle
  • Specialized toe pads
  • Hibernation in freezing temperatures
  • Attractive mating calls

In summary, gray tree frogs are fascinating little creatures with unique behaviors and adaptations. Their nocturnal lifestyle, climbing skills, hibernation strategies, and mating calls are all key aspects of their behavior and communication.

Diet and Feeding

Insects

Gray tree frogs primarily feed on insects. Some common insects they consume are:

  • Flies
  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Waxworms
  • Hornworms

Crickets

Crickets are a popular food source for gray tree frogs due to their availability and high nutritional content. They provide:

  • Essential proteins
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

Flies

Flies are another common food item for gray tree frogs, offering them a variety of nutrients.

Mealworms

Mealworms are also consumed by gray tree frogs. They provide a good source of proteins and fats.

Waxworms

Waxworms are high in fat content, making them an occasional treat for gray tree frogs rather than a staple in their diet.

Hornworms

Hornworms are large, nutritious caterpillars that can be an excellent food source for gray tree frogs. They offer a good amount of proteins and vitamins.

Food Item Protein Fat Fiber Moisture
Crickets 21% 6% 3% 70%
Flies 22% 8% 2% 68%
Mealworms 20% 14% 3% 63%
Waxworms 16% 22% 7% 55%
Hornworms 9% 3% 3% 85%

In summary, gray tree frogs have a varied diet comprising mostly insects. They consume crickets, flies, mealworms, waxworms, and hornworms depending on availability and nutritional needs.

Reproduction and Development

Breeding Season

The gray tree frog’s breeding season occurs during warm months, typically between April and August. Males attract females by calling from trees or bushes near water sources.

Eggs

  • Females can lay up to 2,000 eggs in clusters
  • Eggs are attached to submerged vegetation or tree roots
  • Development takes about 1-2 weeks depending on temperature and environmental factors

Tadpoles

Tadpoles exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Dark coloration with a pale gold or green tint
  • Herbivorous, feeding on algae and plant matter
  • Approximately 6-12 weeks to reach metamorphosis stage

Metamorphosis

During this critical developmental phase, major changes occur:

  • Tadpoles develop legs and absorb their tails
  • Lungs replace gills for breathing
  • Diet changes from herbivorous to insectivorous

Below is a comparison table of the different developmental stages of the gray tree frog:

Stage Duration Characteristics
Egg 1-2 weeks Attached to vegetation, triggered by temperature
Tadpole 6-12 weeks Herbivorous, gills for breathing
Metamorphosis 2-6 weeks Develops legs, lungs, changes diet

The gray tree frog’s distribution encompasses much of the eastern United States, from northern Florida to central Texas and north to parts of the Midwest.

Caring for Gray Tree Frogs as Pets

Enclosure Setup

To keep a gray tree frog as a pet, you should set up a suitable terrarium. The ideal size for an adult is 10-20 gallons, while a juvenile can start in a 5-gallon tank. Make sure the enclosure has a secure, well-ventilated lid to prevent escapes.

Terrarium Substrate

For the terrarium substrate, use a mixture of coconut husk and sphagnum moss. This combination helps maintain humidity and makes cleaning easier. Additionally, it provides a comfortable surface for your frog.

Plants and Branches

In the enclosure, include:

  • Live or artificial plants
  • Branches
  • Hiding areas

Plants and branches give your frog a natural environment and places to climb and hide, reducing stress and promoting healthy behavior. Ensure branches are secure and won’t fall, causing harm to your frog.

Temperature and Humidity

Create an environment with:

  • Daytime temperatures: 75-85°F
  • Nighttime temperatures: 65-75°F
  • Humidity levels: 50-60%

Maintain these conditions with a heat mat, misting, or fogger to provide proper temperature and humidity levels.

Lighting and Heating

Gray tree frogs require:

  • 10-12 hours of light per day
  • Low-wattage UVB bulb
  • Heat mat or low-wattage heat lamp

While not essential, a UVB light can be beneficial for your frog’s health, and proper heating ensures a consistent temperature.

Feeding and Supplements

Feed your frog a diet of:

  • Crickets
  • Silkworms
  • Fruit flies

Dust insects with calcium and vitamin supplements to ensure proper nutrition. Feed juveniles daily and adults every other day, adjusting as needed for your frog’s size and appetite.

Handling and Stress

Minimize handling and stress by:

  • Limiting your frog’s time outside the terrarium
  • Using gentle handling techniques
  • Observing your frog for signs of stress

Remember, gray tree frogs are delicate creatures, so handle them with care and only when necessary. Preventing stress contributes to a healthy and happy pet.

Footnotes

  1. Smithsonian’s National Zoo 2

  2. Maine Reptiles & Amphibians Species Information 2

  3. Missouri Department of Conservation

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Bug of the Month August 2021: Possibly Gray Tree Frog in Campbell, Ohio

 

Subject:  Gray Tree Frog
Geographic location of the bug:  Campbell, Ohio
Date: 07/28/2021
Time: 07:23 AM EDT
Gentle Readers,
Daniel is currently out of the office for a month.  He is spending time in Ohio in his family home, working in the garden and doing repairs and maintenance.  Daniel has often stated that when asked many years ago (1998) to write a column in American Homebody that he decided to write What’s That Bug? because everyone wants to know the answer to that question.  Furthermore, children, especially young boys loved bugs, and Daniel was no exception.  If this is old-fashioned gender bias, Daniel apologizes, but in the sixties, most girls were not interested in bugs while boys were fascinated with all things that crawled.  We would go to the pond to catch tadpoles in the spring, and tramping through fields and woods in search of critters was a year round activity, with winter being the best time to search for the cocoons of giant silk moths.  At any rate, a small wading pool pond has been in the backyard for years and today it is more of an overgrown swamp than a clear pond, but the wildlife loves it.  What a childhood dream it would have been to have frogs breeding in that pond and to have tadpoles there instead of goldfish.

Gray Tree Frog 7:23 AM

So early in the morning Daniel spotted something on a peony leaf and he was stunned to see this little beauty, presumably a Gray Tree Frog, Hyla versicolor, which we located on the Ohio Amphibians website where it states:  “Snout-vent length 3 to 5 cm (1 1/4 to inches).  Skin is warty to granular.  Gray ground color is typical of both species but they may change to green.  Back is marked with an irregular lichen-like pattern and the undersides are white.  A white patch occurs under the eyes.  Inside of each thigh has a bright yellow flash mark visible when the legs are outstretched.  Toe discs are large and distinctive.”  Daniel did write to Jeff Davis to verify this species identification because though the Gray Tree Frog is reported in much of Ohio, there are no reports from Mahoning County.

Gray Tree Frog 7:55 AM

According to Ohio Biota:  “The Gray Treefrog is arguably the most charismatic frog of Lake County.  Superficially, they resemble a toad with less bumpy skin and large toe pads.  These frogs can change their dorsal coloration and may be gray, gray-brown, gray-green, or bright green.  A darker lichen-like pattern, lightly outlined in black, decorates the back.  Depending on the individual frog the back pattern can be pronounced or nearly absent.  The belly is white and the inside of the thighs are bright yellow.”  A half hour later, Daniel got the best image of the little critter, still sitting on a peony leaf, but looking a gorgeous blue-green color.

Gray Tree Frog hiding from hot sun 1:12 PM

As the day got hotter and the sun got stronger, the Tree Frog sought shelter in the shade.

Gray Tree Frog 7:48 PM

As dusk approached, it settled in for the night.  Daniel heard the frogs calling nearby in the early evening, but not a sound from the part of the garden where the Tree Frog was found.  Only males sing.  Perhaps this is a female.  Daniel knows that readers have been sending in identification requests, and this self indulgent posting took a great deal of time, but Daniel is fully aware that Amphibians are an indication of a healthy ecosystem, and Daniel’s Ohio yard is wildlife habitat in a field of manicured lawns that have few trees and that use pesticides to kill Japanese Beetle Grubs and herbicides to control dandelions, making those manicured lawns toxic wastes for wildlife.
If nothing else seeing this Tree Frog filled Daniel with a sense that he is doing the right thing in the way he will care for his family homestead, and it is fully supporting that the key to solving global warming (other than addressing overpopulation which is out of control) is for each person to try to make the world a better place.  So, in light of this historic sighting in his Ohio back yard, Daniel is declaring the Tree Frog the Bug of the Month for August 2021.

 

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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