Photo Credit: Craig Guyer
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Hyla gratiosa
DESCRIPTION: The barking treefrog is a large, plump treefrog that obtains a maximum length of 2¾ inches. The skin on the back appears granular. They have adhesive disks on the end of each toe. Barking treefrogs vary in color from bright green or greenish, to brown, with rounded dark spots on the back. The spots are sometimes only faintly discernable. Each side has a ragged light stripe or longitudinal series of light markings. Sometimes these markings may appear purplish or maroon in color. They also have an obvious ear drum.
DISTRIBUTION: Barking treefrogs are found chiefly along the costal plain from southeastern Virginia to south Florida and west to eastern Louisiana. Isolated populations are also found in the northern parts of the Gulf States, Tennessee and Kentucky. Its distribution in Alabama is generally considered statewide or essentially so; with the most contiguous populations distributed across the southeastern quadrant of the state.
HABITAT: Barking treefrogs are both climbers and burrowers. They can be found in open, mixed woodlands, farmlands, pasture ponds and in gopher tortoise burrows. They spend the warm months in tree tops. During the winter and hot dry periods they seek out moist areas by burrowing in sandy soils, beneath tree roots, or under clumps of vegetation. Barking Treefrogs need shallow, semi-permanent pools with open canopies or ponds dominated by grasses, which have at least some open water for suitable breeding habitat. Permanent ponds and lakes are occasionally used, but the presence of fish usually makes these habitats unsuitable.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Barking treefrogs are normally solitary and nocturnal except during the breeding season. Breeding in Alabama occurs primarily from April through July and may be precipitated by heavy rain. The barking treefrog gets its name from the call the males make as they descend from the trees to the breeding pools. This call is a series of nine or ten syllables of doglike barks. Once the males reach the water, they change their call to a loud “Doonk” or “Toonk”, often repeated in intervals of one to two seconds. Females are attracted to the pools where they mate. Fertilization takes place externally. Following fertilization, females deposit their eggs on the bottom of the pool, either singly or in masses of several hundred. Eggs range from 1.0-1.8 mm in diameter. Once hatched, tadpoles can attain a length of up to two inches, making them the largest tadpoles of any treefrog in the United States. The tadpole stage normally lasts from 40-70 days.
Adult barking treefrogs are greedy, opportunistic feeders foraging at night both in the treetops and on the ground. They consume a variety of insects, invertebrates and worms. The tadpoles feed on algae.
Harding, J., L. Richards and Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. 2005. “Hyla gratiosa” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 26, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hyla_gratiosa.html.
Mount, R. H., 1975. The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. Ala. Agri. Expt. Sta., Auburn Univ., Auburn, AL. 347 pp.
The Frogs and Toads of Georgia 2003. “Barking Treefrog – Hyla gratiosa” (On-line) Accessed April 26, 2006 at http://wwknapp.home.mindspring.com/docs/barking.tfrog.html.
U. S. Geological Survey 2006. “Barking Treefrog – Hyla gratiosa” (On-line). Accessed April 26, 2006 at http://cars.er.usgs.gov/herps/Frogs_and_Toads/H_gratiosa/h_gratiosa.html.
VDGIF. 2005. “Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries” (On line). Barking treefrog (Hyla gratiosa). Accessed April 26, 2006 at http://dgif.state.va.us/wildlife/species/display.asp?id=20002.
AUTHOR: Ron Eakes, Supervising Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries