Do you hear that? No, it’s not a distant flock of birds. One of the most prominent sounds across the Bluegrass State right now is the chorus of the spring peepers. Chirping from these frogs is a welcome sound for most, as it’s an unmistakable sign of spring, and the blooming wildflowers, budding trees, and return of the songbirds are soon to follow.
Though they may be loud, spring peepers can be difficult to spot because they are actually quite small, growing to be only about 1.5 inches long. They are among the smallest frogs in Kentucky! Spring peepers’ small size means they can’t eat grasshoppers and worms like larger frogs, but instead have to eat smaller insects, like ants and small spiders. Their small size also means that they have to be extra careful, because they can be eaten by a variety of animals including snakes, raccoons, birds, and even some rodents.
"DSC04046" by batwrangler is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Where can I find spring peepers?
Like all of Kentucky’s 18 species of frogs, peepers are amphibians, and must lay their eggs in water, so in The Parklands, you can find them in marshes, like those in Beckley Creek Park at the Humana Grand Allee. The easiest way to find and identify them is to follow the sound! Spring peepers are found all over the eastern half of the United States and Canada, but if you don’t live in Kentucky, you might be able to find close relatives of the peepers that are also in the group called “chorus frogs.”
"marsh frog" by Mostly Dans is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Why do spring peepers peep?
If you’re lucky enough to find a spring peeper, you may notice the bubble under the frog’s chin. This air pocket is something that all frogs have, and it’s actually how they make their distinctive sound. As they push air into this pocket, the air causes their vocal folds to vibrate, which makes the whistling sound. You mostly hear the sounds in early spring because the sound is a mating call, and early spring is the best time for the peepers to lay eggs. After they’re laid underwater, their eggs will hatch in as few as 12 days.
"Pseudacris crucifer (Spring Peeper)" by Andrew Hoffman is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Did you know?
Did you know that spring peepers are one of a few unique species of frog that can survive being almost completely frozen? In the wintertime, as temperatures dip below freezing, not all spring peepers can find a warm place to hibernate, so they have adapted to produce a natural antifreeze, which can keep their essential organs warm. Eventually, their heart will completely stop! But when spring is near, they begin to thaw out, their heart starts beating again, and they can begin their beautiful song.
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