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Nature Spring Peepers


Spring peepers are a sign that spring has come to the Ozarks.


Spring PeeperSpring Peepers are Chorus Frogs, a type of Treefrog. Treefrogs have sticky round toepads that they use to climb and cling to twigs and bark. Unlike other treefrogs that climb trees, Spring Peepers rarely climb above knee-level. Chorus Frogs are amphibians, animals that live part of their lives in water and part on land. Spring Peepers are hard to see, and hide themselves by matching the background. They are also very small, about the size of a nickel. Their skin is soft, smooth and brown-green with "X" marks on their backs. They also have mustaches. During this season, the throats of male Spring peepers are gray in color.

How They Sing

Male Spring Peepers call in a loud chorus, each singing its high pitched peeps. Spring Peepers call by pushing air out of sacs in their throat and drawing it quickly back in to make two clear notes. Peep out! Peep in! Sometimes you may also hear a lone male peeper calling in the autumn. 

Where They Live in the Spring

Spring Peepers begin to appear in February or March, when the ground is thawed and softened by cold rains of early spring. Their peeping is the sound they make as they gather at pools and puddles filled by winter rains and snowmelt. These small wet areas dry quickly when summer begins. Until then they are springtime homes to many kinds of life, including Spring Peepers.

Peepers particularly like woodland ponds that are full of shrubs, branches and twigs in and above the water. You'll also find them in puddles in fields and other low places, clinging to stalks of grass or perched on the edge. They like to gather around the deeper parts of ponds. Male Spring Peepers call out from their perches above the water to attract a mate. When you come close, they hop in for safety. 

Their Eggs Hatch into Tadpoles

Female Spring Peepers lay eggs from March to May. The eggs are very small, smaller than a grain of rice. Females lay as many as 1000 eggs and attach them to sticks and brush underneath the water. In less than a week, tadpoles hatch from the eggs. Tadpoles are shaped like a teardrop, with a large head and a long, eel-like tail for swimming. They do not yet have legs. Spring Peeper tadpoles are larger than their frog parents. 

Tadpole Food

Tadpoles eat algae and detritus. Detritus is rotted plant and animal material. Tadpoles have special mouthparts for eating algae and detritus. Also, many animals eat tadpoles, including birds, fish, racoons, possums, cats and snakes. 

Tadpoles Into Frogs

By July or August, tadpoles have back legs. In a short time, their front legs appear and they are able to walk on land. Their bodies change inside, too. The tail is the last to go. This process is called metamorphosis. 

Peeper Frog Food

In late summer and fall, Spring Peepers forage for their favorite foods, which are mostly worms and insects. They are carnivores because they eat other animals. They are also careful not to get eaten. Animals that eat frogs are birds, fish, raccoons, possums, cats and snakes. Spring Peepers are an important part of the food web. 

How They Live Through the Winter

Spring Peepers, like all amphibians, are cold-blooded; their body temperature changes according to the outside temperature.  In the winter, when temperatures drop to freezing, the Spring Peepers' bodies also drop to freezing, but only some parts really freeze. Spring Peepers produce glucose in their livers. Glucose is a sugar that acts as an anti-freeze that is pumped to vital organs including the heart and lungs. Other parts of the Spring Peeper's body will actually form ice crystals and freeze. 

Where They Live in the Winter

During this time, their hearts beat very slowly and they breathe very little. They spend the entire winter in this partly-frozen state, or in hibernation, buried under leaves, logs or soil. In the late winter, warming weather and water heat them enough to bring them out of hibernation. 

Written by Karen Ritchie. Photo of spring peeper by Robert Kitt.

Watch a spring peeper video (Quicktime format)

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Videos by Ravenswood Media, MidwestFrogs.com