The Green Tree Frog: Southern Summer Ambience

A green tree frog resting on a post. This is a small green frog with a bright yellowish-white stripe running down the side of its body.
A green tree frog resting on a post.

Introduction

The green tree frog (Hyla cinerea) is a bright green, average sized frog. Adults are about an inch or two long, with females typically being slightly larger than the males. Most green tree frogs have a white stripe down the middle of their bodies, like the frog shown above. However, a minority of frogs don’t have this stripe. Some individuals, like the one shown above, have yellowish dots on their bodies as well. A green tree frog’s coloration can vary based on their environment – some individuals are more yellow, gray, olive, or brownish. An individual’s coloration is affected by lighting, stress levels, and temperature. The photo above was taken in warmer lighting, which explains why the frog is more of a yellow green.

Green tree frogs are found throughout the southeastern United States, with ranges in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, stretching all the way up into Virginia and Maryland.

Habitat & Behavior

Adult green tree frogs live in forested areas, which are located near freshwater access where they breed. These frogs become active in late spring each year, and go dormant in October. Frogs in the southern part of this range stay active all year, with frogs in the middle spending more time active than frogs in northern regions. You’re most likely to see these frogs active at night or at dusk, and you’re more likely to see an active green tree frog on a rainy day than a sunny one. While active, green tree frogs are most likely to be feeding, or moving to and from calling perches (used to signal nearby green tree frogs that they’re available for mating).

Breeding

Green tree frogs most often breed around permanent wetlands. Ponds, lakes, streams, and swamps are all common breeding grounds for green tree frogs. Human-built water structures are not off the table for breeding sites as well – you can often find breeding sites in all sorts of constructed water reserves. Breeding starts by one or a few males calling, with more males joining in the chorus. The chorus will swell as many males join, before going quiet. This cycle will continue for hours, from dusk into the early morning hours. There’s evidence that social signals between male green tree frogs have an impact on their testosterone and steroid levels, independent of calling behavior.

 

References

Burmeister, S., & Wilczynski, W. (2000). Social signals influence hormones independently of calling behavior in the treefrog (Hyla cinerea). Hormones and Behavior, 38(4), 201–209. https://doi.org/10.1006/hbeh.2000.1605

Dodd, C. K. (2013). Frogs of the United States and Canada. In Frogs of the United States and Canada. John Hopkins University Press. https://doi.org/10.17161/randa.v20i3.13960

Jennison, C. (n.d.). Species Profile: Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) | SREL Herpetology. Savannah River Ecology Laboratory University of Georgia. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from http://srelherp.uga.edu/anurans/hylcin.htm

Cassandra is a third year Computational Media student at Georgia Tech. Her concentrations are People and Interaction Design, and she hopes to work in UX/UI design after graduating from Tech. Outside of school, she enjoys tabletop RPGs, crochet, and photography.