Frogs can be joyful or annoying neighbors you will most likely see near ponds, marshes, and light streams. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and some make that well-known ribbit sound that we all love (or hate!) so much.
Although this does not apply to every species, a general rule is that aquatic frogs will live, sleep, and hibernate in water, and terrestrial frogs will live, sleep, and hibernate on or under the ground. Frogs come in an assortment of different species that each have their unique living, sleeping, and hibernating habits.
If you have ever wondered what species of frog may live near your home, keep reading to find out. We will get into that later though. First, let’s look at some facts about them and what makes them so interesting!
Frogs Are Over 275 Million Years Old
The first known frog evolved from the lungfish approximately 275 million years ago. They moved onto land when there were no other animals besides insects and crustaceans. This explains why a frog’s main diet consists of insects!
The United States has about 90 types of frogs. In the world, there are 4,810 known species, according to World Atlas. They are so versatile you can find them on every continent except Antarctica.
However, one of the greatest events in Earth’s history paved the way for the frog’s diversity. After the asteroid or comet hit the Earth some 66 million years ago, the mass extinction of dinosaurs occurred. Fortunately, frogs not only survived the event, but they also flourished from it!
A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discovered that 88% of living frog species come from three lineages that evolved after the asteroid or comet hit the Earth.
The burst in diversity comes from the fact that frogs had entirely new environments to adapt to after the impact. According to one researcher in the study, the frogs filled in “niches” that were left over from the event. That’s why there are so many of them!
What Types Of Frogs Are There?
There are two types of frogs divided based on where they live, aquatic and terrestrial.
Aquatic frogs live in water and cannot survive if out of it for too long. You can find aquatic frogs in fresh water like ponds, lakes, and marshy areas.
Terrestrial frogs spend most of their time on dry land (except during mating season), but close to water. They will burrow into the soil during the day to avoid hot temperatures and predators. They also live near water in forested and grassland environments.
All frogs require ample water to survive, so you will not see them in deserts or arid climates.
Frogs love bogs, ponds, streams, and other bodies of water, so wet and marshy lands are especially attractive to them.
Do Frogs Hibernate?
Yes, some species do! Species that live in areas where temperatures drop below freezing will hibernate. Their hibernation habits depend on the type of frog that it is.
Since frogs are ectothermic, they stay at the same temperature as their surroundings. This determines whether a frog will hibernate.
Frogs will hibernate in a plethora of places. Aquatic frogs will create burrows or swim to the bottom of the water source to hibernate. They can let part of their body freeze because of a special antifreeze chemical they produce.
Terrestrial frogs hibernate in tree knot holes, underground, or under forest debris to protect themselves properly from the cold. You can also find them in crevices of fallen tree trunks and peeling bark.
Now let’s look at frogs native to the United States and other parts of North America.
How Do Frogs Drink?
Frogs have a very interesting way to drink water. In fact, they do not drink it at all! They absorb it.
Instead of consuming water through the mouth, frogs passively absorb it. They use a drinking patch on their thighs and underbelly to absorb via a process called osmosis.
Osmosis is when liquid moves between a permeable membrane. It makes sure too much water isn’t being absorbed by the frog. Frogs need to have clean water because they will absorb any other chemicals in the water into their skin.
How Do Frogs Eat?
Frogs love insects, that much is true! However, they are generalist predators, which means they will eat anything that looks tasty and is big enough to fit into their mouths. This includes worms, beetles, grasshoppers, flies, butterflies, spiders, and so much more.
They have even been known to eat other frogs!
When a frog chooses its prey, it will use its extremely powerful tongue to snatch it up. Frog tongues are usually 1/3 the size of their bodies and are 10x softer than our human tongues. This, combined with their super sticky saliva, makes it hard for prey to get away once it has snatched them up.
When a frog eats, it swallows food whole. They have enormous mouths and wide bodies that make it easier to do so. They do not use their teeth for chewing, but for holding prey to keep them from getting away.
Once they are ready to swallow, a frog will press its eyes down into its throat to push food down into the stomach. In this way, frogs swallow using their eyes and their tongue.
The Most Common Species Of Frogs In The U.S. (And Where They Live)
Frog species vary based on geographical location, so it is hard to determine which type of frog has the highest numbers compared to other species.
However, I have listed some of the most common frogs in the United States and a description of where they live, sleep, and hibernate below. If you are interested in identifying even more frogs, check out this book, The Book of Frogs: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World! It includes pictures and sketches of 600 species of frogs, as well as a distribution map.
Read on to learn more about these amphibious critters that may live near your home!
Where American Bullfrogs Live, Sleep And Hibernate
One of the most common types of frogs is the American bullfrog, a terrestrial species. They are notable for their large size (up to 6 inches long!), rich green color, and deep-throated sound that males use to mark their territory and attract mates.
They are native to Eastern North America and are the largest species in the states. They also frequent freshwater areas from Mexico to Canada.
Although you can find them in so many places, their actual indigenous habitat is anywhere near lakes, ponds, streams, and marshes in the Eastern part of North America, excluding Mexico.
These bullfrogs can be an invasive species in certain areas because they can travel up to one mile per day! This means that they can harm native foliage and animal populations if they end up in the wrong place.
As a tadpole, bullfrogs will eat plants growing in the water they swim in, but they are carnivorous when they are in adulthood. They will eat mice, insects, birds, snakes, fish, tadpoles, even their own kind!
According to the University of Virginia, bullfrogs do not sleep unless they are hibernating. They hibernate by burrowing deep into the mud and staying as still as possible. This allows them to conserve energy and stay alive during the deep cold.
Where Northern Leopard Frogs Live, Sleep And Hibernate
Another very common frog found in the United States and Canada is the leopard frog. It is known for its gorgeous brown spots over green, brown, or yellow-brown skin.
They can be found in wetlands, pools, slow-moving streams, beaver ponds, and habitats constructed by humans like borrow pits.
You will see the northern leopard frog in a variety of environments throughout its life cycle. Teenaged frogs will head closer to larger bodies of water, while recently metamorphosed leopard frogs will search for breeding spots in areas of drainage.
These frogs will eat virtually anything that they can fit inside their mouths. They are very hungry critters! Most commonly, though, leopard frogs will eat ants, worms, flies, leeches, snails, slugs, beetles, and insect larvae.
This frog is special because it is semi-aquatic and must be in the water more often than a terrestrial frog. Leopard frogs are nocturnal and will sleep during the day in shallow water under the mud.
It is important for a northern leopard frog to sleep in water because it must absorb it while it sleeps.
As for hibernation, since the leopard frog is semi-aquatic, it will hibernate underwater by going to the bottom of shallow water, most often behind rocks to avoid extra silt piling on top of them.
Most of these frogs have been found hibernating in small mud pits (a few feet down), or even in pits beneath running water. Scientists have observed that these frogs are less prone to deoxygenation and aeration of the water, increasing their chances of surviving the winter.
Where American Green Tree Frogs Live, Sleep And Hibernate
The song of this beautiful frog is a well-known sound in the southern United States. It is characteristically bright green with an off-white underbelly. They can grow up to 2 ½ inches long, so they are very tiny!
These little critters can adapt to a lot of environments. They are commonly found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, mostly in trees that are near rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands.
Another name for the green tree frog is the “bell frog”. This is because they can honk or bark up to 75 times per minute!
During mating season, you will find male frogs all over bodies of water with lily pads and other floating plants. They will perch on these and all around the water source, calling out to females, who can hear them from up to 300 yards away.
These frogs are also excellent pest exterminators. If you hear some near your house, then you know they are actively eating mosquitos and other small insects. They are great additions to your yard if you live within their native habitat.
Where Spring Peeper Frogs Live, Sleep And Hibernate
This species of frog is also very common. They are distinctly yellow, tan, brown, gray, or olive-colored. Sometimes, depending on geographical location, they have white underbellies.
They can be found all across the eastern United States, almost exclusively in wooded parts of the east side of the country, especially in bogs.
It goes without question that the spring peeper’s population has taken a hit due to deforestation. However, they are generally common and are frequent visitors to many states, like the forests of Kentucky or the deep woods of Pennsylvania.
During mating season, the frog will live in shrubs and trees that are right up against a body of water, especially ponds, meadows, and swamps.
These frogs sleep and are nocturnal, so expect to hear these repeated calls after the sun has set.
During winter, you will find these critters underneath rocks and mud, in tree holes, or anywhere that keeps them warm and dry. Like many frogs, they make an antifreeze in their bloodstream that keeps them from freezing completely solid.
This type of frog does not hibernate for prolonged periods of time, depending on the conditions. Scientists have observed them throughout winter as long as the temperature is above freezing.
Where Pacific Tree Frogs Live, Sleep And Hibernate
This frog is easily recognizable by its long orange toes that stick to virtually anything. Their color changes based on their environment. They can be green, brown, or gray.
They can be found in the northern part of the West, from Washington to Nevada.
While it is true Pacific tree frogs can live in trees, they are more likely to be found in wet ground vegetation. When it is breeding season, the frogs will move to shallow ponds and streams with slow-moving water.
As for food, these tree frogs will climb to catch invertebrates like flies, beetles, and ants. They are beneficial to the environment because they eliminate invasive species like reed canary grass.
Pacific tree frogs do not hibernate. Their native climate does not get too cold, so they can avoid prolonged freezes. In the case of frost, Pacific tree frogs will hide underneath the duff—or the layer of partially decayed leaves on the forest floor.
This is why you will hear this type of frog sing throughout the year.
Where Wood Frogs Live, Sleep And Hibernate
The wood frog is a terrestrial amphibian that lives far and wide across North America.
They have been found as far south as Alabama up to the Arctic Circle.
These frogs can adapt to several temperatures, but they prefer woody areas.
When it is mating season for the wood frog, they usually go to a vernal pool to mate. A vernal pool is a standing body of water or wetlands that only appears during wet seasons.
They are also very tiny, only growing up to 3.25 inches. This means they are vulnerable to many predators like turtles, snakes, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, birds, and foxes. They are elusive, however, and can hide easily in many nooks and crannies of the forest.
It is unknown just how many hours a wood frog will sleep in a day because they will sit very still with their eyes closed most of the time. They sleep within their hiding spots when they do not feel threatened, but stay alert to predators when out in the open.
When the weather becomes cold, wood frogs have a different approach. Instead of burrowing deep into the mud or within a tree’s knothole, wood frogs dive underneath the leaves on the forest floor.
Because of where they hibernate, they are one of the first frogs to appear in the spring. This is because land thaws faster than water.
Wood frogs have adapted far more than other animals at surviving the cold. When winter is in full swing, these frogs will freeze completely solid. Their heart stops and their brain activity and organs stop working. Remarkably, the thaw restarts their heart and reanimates the amazing creature!
What Is The Rarest Frog In The United States?
The rarest frog in the U.S. is the Mississippi gopher frog, native to the southern United States, especially in marshy and coastal forests. They are critically endangered.
This frog is so rare that it had its own Supreme Court case in an attempt to keep it from going extinct! In 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested the use of 1,500 acres of a Louisiana forest for the rehabilitation of the gopher frog. As of 2021, the request is still in deliberation.
Can Frogs Change Colors?
Yes, some frogs can change colors! There are two types of frogs: monochromatic and dichromatic. Monochromatic frogs cannot change colors, while dichromatic frogs can.
Usually, color changes occur simply because the frog is growing up, but other circumstances can cause multiple color changes throughout its life. It is quite remarkable!
The beautiful colors that we see on frogs result from chromatophores, which are pigment cells. These pigment cells have the capability to shift colors, which is activated by one of the factors below.
The factors that can change a frog’s color include mood, environmental need, mating season, temperature, humidity level, or brightness.
One frog we mentioned before, the spring peeper, is usually a medium brown color. However, its mood can change and cause the color to shift darker or lighter. It will also turn lighter at night.
Frogs Croak At Night
Did you know frogs were the first animals to develop vocal cords? We know them for their variety of calls, croaks, and songs they use to attract mates and ward away other male frogs. To learn more about why you hear a frog’s notorious croaking, head over to our article Reasons Why Frogs Croak At Night!
Frogs make sounds by puffing themselves up with air to increase the volume of their croaks. The air travels from the lungs to the larynx to the oral cavity, causing the vocal cords to vibrate and produce the sound.
This can be likened to a drum, which has a membrane stretched over the top of it that amplifies the sound.
Some frogs, like the spring peeper, can be heard up to two and a half miles away! This is especially true if there are many of them.
The spring peeper is so loud that 15% of its muscle mass is made up of vocalizing muscles. Since it is so small, it must use a lot of energy to make a sound.
Wrapping It Up!
As you can see, frogs are vastly different. It is impossible to make a general statement about their living, sleeping, and hibernating habits because there are simply too many species.
However, you can differentiate frogs as aquatic or terrestrial to get a basic understanding of where they live and how they hibernate. Some frogs have their unique ways of surviving!
It goes without saying that these vibrant critters are excellent for their native environments, as well as your yard. They consume a whole range of insects, and some frogs have been known to eat animals as big as bats!
I hope this article helped you learn a lot more about frogs and their living habits. These amphibious neighbors are beneficial to insect populations and helpful to you. You are now more aware of the possible amphibious neighbors you have in your yard, how they maintain insect populations, and their living and sleeping habits.
If you have toads in your yard instead of frogs, check out our guide on 5 Reasons Toads Are In Your Yard (& How To Keep Them Out) here!
Heilbrunn, L. V., Kathryn Daugherty, and Karl M. Wilbur. “Initiation of maturation in the frog egg.” Physiological Zoology 12.2 (1991): 97-101. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/physzool.12.2.30151487?journalCode=physzool
Tuttle, Merlin D., and Michael J. Ryan. “Bat predation and the evolution of frog vocalizations in the Neotropics.” Science 214.4521 (1981): 677-678.https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.214.4521.677
Pace, Ann E. “Systematic and biological studies of the leopard frogs (Rana pipiens complex) of the United States.” (1974). https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/56392/MP148.pdf?sequence=1
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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