Yesterday morning I lifted one of the bonsai pots on our deck and found this gray treefrog resting underneath. This frog is an arboreal species, seldom descending to the ground. Apparently our deck garden resembles a tree.
When I tried to encourage it to return to its hiding place under a bonsai pot, the frog leapt out of my hand and caught the edge of a little table by one toe. These frogs have powerful toe pads, allowing them to jump away from predators and find purchase on the first passing leaf or branch. They also have a vivid yellow flush on the inside of their thighs to startle any hungry creature that disturbs them.
Gray treefrogs can be distinguished from other Ontario frogs by their warty skin and the pale triangular patch under the eye. Toads are warty but solid brown and lack toe pads. This adult frog is about the length of my thumb.
At rest the yellow flash is hidden, and these amphibians are well camouflaged. Gray treefrogs can change their colour to match their surroundings, from green to grey to brown. This frog would be hard to distinguish like a mound of lichen on a high tree branch.
Sometimes at our cottage we find a treefrog on one of the windows, where they catch insects attracted to the lights. I’ve never seen one here in the city, though. The conservation area behind our house must provide a home for them. Its nice to find one living in our garden, a reminder that cities can offer good backyard habitats, too.
Treefrogs seem to be common. However, because of their arboreal habit and excellent camouflage, they are seldom seen. Try listening for them on spring and early summer nights in wooded areas. Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond program has an audio file of the gray treefrog’s song.
David Attenborough has a special passion for frogs. We recently watched his documentary, Fabulous Frogs, on PBS Nature. I recommend it as an insight into the world’s great diversity of frogs, and their intriguing behaviour.