Spring peepers making their call known in early spring in Ohio

Northern spring peepers (pseudacris cruifer cruifer) are sounding off in earnest this spring in shallow ponds and temporary wetlands across Ohio as the tiny amphibian with the deafening shrill whistle summon females during the annual breeding season from March to June.

“Males move to the ponds first from fields and woods,” said biologist Mike Benard, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “It takes a lot of energy for them to make a call.”

Benard said the tiny frog, no larger than a dime, makes its unique sound by expelling air across its larynx as its elastic vocal sac expands to help the frog conserve energy for more calling to prospective mates.

“They are involved in an endurance race every night,” Benard said of the amorous amphibians.

Males peepers like to call early in the evening, often from the water’s edge or sitting in water, Benard said. Human passers-by will hear peepers’ shrill peeps or whistles from a distance, but when approaching the pond where peepers are located, the tiny frogs become quiet.

“They can hear, feel, and see us,” Benard said.

Peepers can lay from 800 to 1,000 eggs during the breeding season and tadpoles appear in July, according to the Ohio DNR.

Because of their size – 0.75 to 1.25 inches – and ability to go unseen, they are most often identified by their call. But upon closer inspection, they can be distinguished by their light brown color and a dark “X” on their back, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

One of the challenges for biologists who study peepers, Benard said, is “we don’t have a good idea how long they live.” The concensus is peepers usually survive to breed for one to two breeding seasons.

In the meantime, Benard said, they lay low in fields and woods and under logs because they are vulnerable to predators such as snakes, salamanders, large insects, and birds.

Benard said he has been fascinated with peepers “since I was a kid.”

“I love it. It’s great to work with them,” he said.

Below are links to two new spring peeper videos recorded by Benard recently at the Case Western Reserve University farm in Hunting Valley, Ohio. The videos include two different types of calls that peepers make, he said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmR-m-Ru39Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eibMr36ijrU

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