Cope's Gray Treefrog
Photo Credit: Marisa Lee
Scientific Name: Hyla chrysoscelis
Description: Cope’s gray treefrog is a fairly large treefrog about 1 ¼” - 2 3/8” long. This frog and other members of the family Hylidae are typically walkers and climbers and are often reluctant to jump. To facilitate climbing, the tips of the toes expand into adhesive discs. In addition, treefrogs have cartilage between the last two bones of each toe. This cartilage allows the tip of the toe to swivel backward and sideways while keeping the sticky toe pad flat against the climbing surface.
The dorsum or back of Cope’s gray treefrog, is light gray to dark gray or brownish (occasionally greenish), with several large dark blotches. A prominent dark-edged light spot is usually present below the eye. The inner thighs are bright yellow orange with dark spots and reticulations or, in some individuals, brownish with golden yellow spots. These bright colors on the legs are thought to serve to confuse predators. Their skin is not as smooth as other treefrogs, but also not as bumpy as toads. The color of the Cope's gray treefrog can change from green or brown to almost white, depending upon changes in temperature and activity. This allows it to be extremely well camouflaged while perched on a tree or shrub.
Distribution: Common throughout the state, but seldom encountered in abundance except during breeding. While they can be found in a variety of habitats, they are most likely to be found in deciduous forests.
Habitat: Cope’s gray treefrogs are nocturnal. They prefer swamps or wooded ponds and streams where they can find a relatively high perch on a tree or shrub to call from. At night they may leave the trees and move to the ground to feed. However, they are rarely seen on the ground except during breeding.
Feeding Habits: Feeds on both arboreal and terrestrial insects.
Life History and Ecology: Breeds from April to August, with the greatest activity occurring during warm, rainy periods. Males call while perched on vegetation in, on or around water. The mating call is a short trill which is repeated at regular intervals. They use a variety of aquatic sites for breeding, but streams and large bodies of water are usually avoided. The ideal breeding sites seem to be temporary to semi-permanent pools or ponds. During dry periods they are likely to be found well away from water and may take shelter in the knotholes of trees and in other secluded areas. Females lay masses of eggs in the water.
Mount, Robert H. 1975. The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. Auburn Printing Company, Alabama. 347 pp.
Knopf, Alfred A. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Chanticleer Press, Inc. New York. 743 pp.
Mirarchi, Ralph E. 2004. Alabama Wildlife, Volume One. The University of Alabama Press, Alabama. 209 pp.
Author: Marisa Lee, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, July 2006