Why Do Frogs Croak At Night?

We all know why frogs croak (or ribbit, chirp, or hoot). What motivates frogs to call all night from your backyard pond or nearby creek? The most obvious indicator is that only males call in almost all frog species. That charming melody you hear in your backyard pond, local creek, or dam is actually male frogs calling to attract female frogs. Because each species has a distinct cry, you may identify frog species simply by listening.

Most of us are familiar with the sound of frogs calling, and the typical cries we hear are known as advertisement calls--male frogs promoting themselves as potential companions, hoping that female frogs will enjoy their song and come their way. Male frogs often call in or near water (ponds, dams, streams, and wetlands) because this is where eggs are most often placed and tadpoles develop. Some frogs call from the water, while others call from adjacent rocks or the bank, and yet others from trees or the ground.

Because different frog species breed in different types of water bodies, different frog species call from different types of water bodies. Wilcox's Frog (Litoria wilco xii), a bright-yellow male, cries from near rocky streams. The Orange-thighed Tree Frog (Litoria xanthoma) cries from trees near ephemeral ponds, but the Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifier) calls from shallow marshes, flooded grassland, and puddles.

Male frogs seek to attract females of their own species (otherwise it's a waste of their time! ), hence each frog species in a region has a distinct call. Male frogs sing to attract their own kind, which can range from a high-pitched buzzing to a deep "bonk" or an insect-like chirp. Female frogs have hearing that is tuned into the particular cry of their own species, allowing them to detect a male of their own species among a chorus of several, boisterous males.

Knowing the sounds of each frog species is also an excellent technique for us humans to recognize our local frogs without disturbing them. You can survey frogs just by listening once you've learned what each local frog species sounds like!

Because most frog species are nocturnal, they become more active and vociferous after sunset. As a result, the greatest time to hear frogs calling is at night. Given their dependency on water for reproduction, it's no surprise that frogs call more after rain. Some frog species reproduce virtually continuously ("prolonged breeders"), whereas others only breed (and hence call) a few nights per year ("explosive breeders"). If you want to hear some of the more obstinate frogs, timing is everything!

While the warmer months are often the ideal time to hear frogs because most frog species spawn in the spring and summer, some frog species prefer the cooler months. Others, such as the desert-dwelling Water-holding Frog (Cyclorana platycephala), will simply call once it rains sufficiently.

So that frog calling from your backyard pond is an amorous male croaking in an attempt to lure the female frog of his dreams. Fortunately for humans, frog sounds can also be used to determine which kinds of frogs live nearby.

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