Spring Peepers Journal

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The Spring Peeper is a widespread and familiar species of frog, known primarily for its loud and piercing call, a repeated peep! peep! peep! given by males from ponds and pools during the spring breeding season. Distant choruses sound like magical sleigh bells, but at close range the same calls hurt one's ears.

Although producing an extremely loud sound, adult peepers are only an inch long, and range in color from dull brown to various shades of gray, olive, and even orange. Because of their small size, peepers are rarely seen and are difficult to find at their breeding sites. One useful technique is for two people to approach a calling male from different directions with flashlights in hand. If each shines their light toward the caller, its exact location is where the two beams cross.

Spring peepers can be recognized by the dark crucifix-like "X" on their back, which gives rise to the word "crucifer" in their scientific name. Peepers are members of the genus Pseudacris, the Chorus Frogs, which includes about ten other North American species.

In late summer and autumn, individuals sometimes call from trees or shrubs during the day, giving garbled or muted peeps that are not nearly as loud and piercing as their spring breeding calls. This habit has earned them the alternate name of Autumn Piper. Thus we have a frog with two common names, depending on when we hear it. The Spring Peeper that celebrates our vernal nights in mass soon becomes the Autumn Piper that chimes intermittently when leaves turn red and gold.

artwork by Susan Bull Riley © 2001 
text by Lang Elliot
 

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