Credit: Kathleen Scavone
You’ve probably seen Pacific tree frogs in your porch planters, nearby trees and in ponds. Same here, since these two-inch marvels reside up and down the Pacific coast, from British Columbia, south to Baja California. Lately, a pair of these beautiful amphibians have been hanging out in my pottery barn sink!
The sink has a gravity-fed water supply and, since it is used for rinsing clay off of my hands after throwing stoneware pots on the wheel, the water just runs out to the back garden, where the industrious pair make use of their long legs and circular, sticky toe pads to aid in climbing up the water spout like the itsy-bitsy spider. Each time I spy them, I capture them and take them outdoors, but they seem to like the moist habitat of my sink, so I just watch them, observe their lovely markings, and okay, sometimes I talk to them!
There has been a bit of confusion surrounding the Pacific tree frog’s name. Biologists have been in disagreement about the miniscule critter’s moniker for a while now. While some call them Pacific chorus frogs, others believe they should be named Pacific tree frogs. This name game stems back to Mr. Baird and Mr. Girard, who, in 1852, added the frogs to the Hyla genus, calling them Pacific chorus frogs.
Prior to that, in 1843, a gentleman called Mr. Fitzinger included the frogs into the genus Pseudacris and named them Pacific tree frogs. Adding to the puzzlement of many, in 2006, Recuero et al divided the frog into three separate species.
Today, The Amphibian Species of the World confirms this split calling the wee creatures Pacific tree frogs. As Kermit the frog once said, “It’s not easy being green” or, in the case of a Pacific tree frog – any of a variety of colors, such as brown, tan, black or reddish color with dark marks artfully splashed over them.
Pacific tree frogs possess superior camouflage skills, and can adjust their colors seasonally, much like we change out our summer shorts and tank tops to a fall wardrobe of sweaters and boots to suit the season. Pacific tree frogs were introduced to the Ketchikan, Alaska, area in the 1960s. Their habitat includes a variety of settings, such as lakes, streams, wooded areas, grasslands and even chaparral.
When winter comes around the frogs take cover by hiding out in crevices near streams. Some migrate by taking cover in deeper crevices that are about 40 feet away from streams. Newts and other amphibians consume the frogs – both in the adult stage, as well as the frog’s eggs. This species of frog mates in early winter, on into the early springtime, when males migrate to water sources. They call out their inspiring ‘ribbits’ in order to attract a female and add a lovely layer of interest to our soundscape.
Next, she lays her eggs in any handy still water. Pacific tree frogs are mostly nocturnal, usually living their lives concealed under logs or leaf litter. When frogs emerge to pursue prey, they dine on fare such as centipedes, beetles, moths, ants, spiders, and flies. It’s fun to catch the frog chorus when they seek their ‘true love’ during a frog frenzy of calling in the wild.