Are there tree frogs in Tennessee? You bet there are. At least 21 types of frogs and toads call the state home. Almost half of those amphibians are in the tree frog family.
By definition, a tree frog is any frog species that spends the majority of its lifespan in an arboreal state. What that means is that they live primarily in trees or other vegetation that is high-growing. These frogs typically only descend to the ground to mate or spawn, where some species build foam nests on leaves. As adults, tree frogs rarely leave their arboreal habitat.
Now let’s look at pictures and learn some interesting facts about the tree frogs in Tennessee.
Types of tree frogs in Tennessee
The 10 species of tree frogs you’ll come across in Tennessee are the northern spring peeper, gray tree frog, Cope’s gray tree frog, green tree frog, bird-voiced treefrog, barking tree frog, upland chorus frog, southern cricket frog, northern cricket frog, and the mountain chorus frog.
1. Northern Spring Peeper
Scientific name: Pseudacris crucifer
Spring peepers derive their name from the chirping calls you can hear them making at the beginning of spring every year. In Tennessee and most other southern states, the Northern spring peeper can be found in forests, woodlands, swamps, ponds, and marshes.
Small chorus frogs, these tiny frogs are only 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) and weigh less than five grams. Their colors range from brown to tan, although it’s not uncommon to see some that look gray or olive green. Spring peepers have a dark cross on the back.
In the freezing winters, these frogs hibernate behind bark and under logs.
2. Gray Tree Frog
Scientific name: Dryophytes versicolor
Gray tree frogs are small frogs found throughout Tennessee that can change their color from green to gray as needed for camouflage. Here’s a fun fact about gray tree frogs. Their color changes to match whatever surface they’re sitting on. Moreover, their mottling can vary from almost pure white to nearly black.
If you see gray tree frogs in an area that isn’t their normal habitat, they will be mostly gray in color. Their legs are patterned with dark bands.
These tree frogs live in forested areas and only descend to the ground to mate. It’s not unusual to see them around windows and porch lights where they can feast on insects.
3. Cope’s Gray Tree Frog
Scientific name: Dryophytes chrysoscelis
Frequently referred to as the Southern gray tree frog, Cope’s gray tree frogs share the same geographical area in Tennessee as the gray tree frog and look identical to them. What differentiates the Cope’s gray tree frog is its higher-pitched and faster-paced call and this is the only difference between the two species.
In terms of habitat, the Cope’s gray tree frog lives in woodland areas and they move to ponds for breeding.
These frogs are primarily solitary frogs, but they do form choruses that allow them to call when they’re together. You can sometimes even hear these frogs responding to loud noises during the day.
4. Mountain Chorus Frog
Scientific name: Pseudacris brachyphona
Native to the United States and occurring only in a portion of central eastern Tennessee, mountain chorus frogs are members of the Hylidae Family.
Mountain chorus frogs are brown or gray. Their heads are broad and they are easy to recognize because they have a triangle between their eyes, along with a faint white line that can be seen on their upper lips. If you see a mountain chorus frog with a darker throat, it is probably a male.
These frogs prefer to live in swamps, marshes, rivers, ponds, springs, ditches, or canals. In size, they can be up to 1.4 inches (3.8 centimeters). Females of this species are usually larger than the males.
5. Green Tree frog
Scientific name: Hyla cinerea
The green tree frog has a slender, smooth body that’s bright to dark green or grayish. Their sides are usually marked with a white stripe with a crisp black border. Adults grow to a size of 1 to 2.5 inches in length. Most adults have a few orange or yellow spots on their backs.
During the day they hide in shady areas or under vegetation surrounding water. At night they come out to catch flying insects. The green tree frog call, heard from April to September, is a nasal quoonk-quoonk repeated up to 75 times per minute.
Green tree frogs are found mainly in far western Tennessee but they have been expanding into central areas of the state.
6. Barking Tree frog
Scientific name: Hyla gratiosa
The Barking Tree Frog has a plump body and uniquely granular bumpy skin that’s gray, green, or brown. Its back has dark spots that fade and sometimes yellow flecks. Adults average 2.5 inches in length and grow up to 2.75 inches. While these tree frogs like to climb high trees, they also burrow under sand or soil.
Their call is a single “toonk” that is medium to deeper pitched. From a distance a group of these frogs often sounds like barking dogs. Most tree frogs sit on vegetation or the ground when they call, but the barking tree frog calls while floating on the water.
This is the largest tree frog in the state, and are mainly found in a few areas of southern Tennessee.
7. Upland Chorus Frog
Scientific name: Pseudacris feriarum
The upland chorus frog can be found in the eastern and southern U.S. Human activity doesn’t seem to scare them much, and they will inhabit small neighborhood ponds, flooded fields or roadside ditches. They like a moist, vegetated habitat near water, but spend very little time in the water itself. You will likely only see and hear them when breeding, and their most active breeding season is November through March.
Their skin can appear various shades of brown, with a dark brown stripe running along their side. Their throat and chest are often a light cream color. The repetitive call of these frogs is sometimes described as sounding like running a finger along the teeth of a plastic comb.
In Tennessee the upland chorus frog is widespread throughout the state.
8. Northern Cricket Frog
Scientific name: Acris crepitans
Tennessee is home to both the northern and southern cricket frog. They have long back legs, a pointed snout and slightly warty skin. Their color can vary from green to brown and brownish red. They have a stripe (color varies) that extends between the tops of their eyes and a “Y” shaped stripe on their back. The northern variety has more webbing on their back toes and the dark stripe on their thigh has ragged edges.
Cricket frogs are active both day and night and like pond, marsh, stream and river habitats where they will live in the vegetation along the shore. They lay single or small groups of eggs, and the tadpoles have a black tip on their tail. Northern cricket frogs will call from April to August.
Northern cricket frogs are found throughout Tennessee.
9. Southern Cricket Frog
Scientific name: Acris gryllus
The Southern cricket frog looks mostly identical to the northern variety, but has less webbing on their back toes, slightly longer legs and clean cut thigh stripes. They live in the same habitat as the northern cricket frogs, but call for a much longer period of the year between February and October.
Southern cricket frogs occur in extreme southwestern Tennessee.
10. Bird-Voiced Tree Frog
Scientific name: Hyla avivoca avivoca
The bird-voiced tree frog is typically 1 to 1.75 inches in length and is green, brown, or gray with dark blotches. They have a light spot under each eye which can vary in color. They spend most of their time in trees, only coming down to breed in shallow pools of swamps and creeks.
Their main diet is spiders and tree dwelling insects. The unusual name refers to their call, which is described as a birdlike whistle. You can hear them between April and September. In Tennessee, these little frogs only occur in the west third of the state.