“What kind of tree frogs can you find in New Jersey?“
Tree Frogs are interesting animals that have adapted to all sorts of habitat niches. And while they are common, they are MUCH harder to find than your “typical” frogs that live in lakes and ponds. For example, a tree frog could literally be right next to your head, but it may be concealed on the other side of a leaf or camouflaged perfectly to its environment.
For the sake of this article, I have included members of Hylidae, which is the family that encompasses all tree frogs in New Jersey. But don’t let the name “tree frog” fool you, as species from this family are not always arboreal but can be terrestrial and semi-aquatic too!
Since tree frogs can be hard to observe, I have tried to include audio samples for each species. Listening is sometimes the BEST (or only) way to locate each species. 🙂
4 Types of Tree Frogs in New Jersey:
#1. Spring Peeper
- Pseudacris crucifer
- Adults are small and range from 1 to 1.5 inches long.
- They’re typically tan or brown, with the females being lighter in color.
- Both males and females usually feature a dark cross or ‘X’ on their back.
These tiny tree frogs can be found all over New Jersey.
You’ll typically find Spring Peepers on the forest floor among the leaves. However, they do have large toe pads that they use for climbing trees.
Spring Peeper Range Map
You can find them in ponds and small bodies of water in the spring, where they breed and lay eggs. After hatching, the young tree frogs remain in the tadpole stage for about three months before leaving the water.
Spring Peepers get their name from their distinctive spring chorus. They’re thought to sound like the “peep” of baby chickens. You are most likely to hear them in early spring! LISTEN BELOW!
Their calls are very distinctive, and these tree frogs are easy to identify by sound.
#2. Gray Tree Frog
- Dryophytes versicolor
- Adult body lengths range from 1.5 to 2 inches.
- Mottled gray, green, and brown coloring. Look for a whitish spot beneath each eye.
- Bumpy skin, short snouts, and bright orange on the undersides of their legs.
This incredible tree frog can slowly change colors to match what it’s sitting on to camouflage itself. And you thought chameleons were the only animal that can change colors! They vary from gray to green or brown. It’s common for their back to display a mottled coloring, much like lichen.
Gray Tree Frogs are ubiquitous throughout New Jersey. You’ll spot them in a wide variety of wooded habitats, from backyards to forests to swamps.
Gray Tree Frog Range Map
They stick to the treetops until it’s time to breed. Gray Tree Frogs prefer to mate and lay eggs in woodland ponds without fish. They’ll also use swamps and garden water features.
Gray Tree Frogs are easier to hear than to see.
Listen for a high trill that lasts about 1 second, commonly heard in spring and summer.
*Gray Tree Frogs are essentially identical to Cope’s Gray Tree Frogs. The only way to tell the difference is to listen to their breeding calls. You can learn more by visiting this site.*
#3. Northern Cricket Frog
- Acris crepitans
- Adults from 0.75 to 1.5 inches long.
- Irregular color patterns including grays, greens, browns, yellows, and blacks.
- A dark triangular spot between the eyes, blunt snout, warts, and dark banding on the legs.
- Also referred to as the Eastern Cricket Frog.
Although Northern Cricket Frogs are part of the tree frog family, they don’t spend much time in trees. Typically you can find them in ponds and lakes with plentiful vegetation as well as slow-moving rivers.
These tree frogs are extremely small. In fact, they are one of the smallest vertebrates you will find in New Jersey!
Northern Cricket Frog Range Map
But even though they are tiny, they can jump over 3 FEET in a single jump to escape predators, in addition to being excellent swimmers.
This tree frog gets its name from its unique call. As you can probably guess, the Northern Cricket Frog makes a breeding call that sounds like the repeating chirp of a cricket.
#4. Pine Barrens Tree Frog
- Dryophytes andersonii
- Small species being only 1 – 3 inches in length.
- Mostly green colored, with dark, wide stripes.
- Distinguishing feature is a white-bordered purple stripe on the sides of their body.
To find these beautiful, tiny tree frogs in New Jersey, you need to look down instead of up! They spend most of their time on the ground, typically in brushy, mossy areas near water.
Pine Barrens Tree Frog Range Map
Pine Barrens Tree Frogs prefer low pH levels, which is unique for most amphibians. Females lay their eggs in shallow, acidic pools. Because of this adaptation, the tadpoles don’t have to compete with other tree frog species!
Populations of these tree frogs are declining. Their official conservation status is “Near Threatened,” but they were once considered endangered back in the 1980s. Loss of habitat is their main threat, as many of the small, acidic pools they rely upon have been drained for development.
Pine Barrens Tree Frogs make a unique breeding call!
Listen for a “honk-honk-honk,” which reminds me of the sound of a duck!
Do you need additional help identifying tree frogs?
Try this field guide!
Which of these tree frogs have you seen in New Jersey?
Leave a comment below!