10 Types of Tree Frogs Found in South Carolina! (ID Guide)
“What kind of tree frogs can you find in South Carolina?“
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.
So what exactly qualifies as a tree frog?
For the sake of this article, I have included members of Hylidae, which is the family that encompasses all tree frogs in South Carolina. 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. 🙂
10 Types of Tree Frogs in South Carolina:
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#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 South Carolina.
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 South Carolina. 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 South Carolina!
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. Southern Cricket Frog
- Acris gryllus
- Adults are small and range from 0.5 to 1.25 inches long.
- Irregular color patterns, including black, brown, red, green, and gray.
- Dark triangle between their eyes and a bright-colored “Y” stripe running from their snout down their back.
This tiny tree frog is a great jumper, reaching heights of more than 60 times its body length!
Southern Cricket Frog Range Map
DON’T look in trees for this tree frog. Even though they are in the Hylidae family, they are not arboreal. In South Carolina, the Southern Cricket Frog is primarily found in coastal plain bogs, bottomland swamps, ponds, and wet ditches.
This species is extremely similar in both appearance and behavior to the Northern Cricket Frog. The only way to tell them apart is to look at their thigh patterns.
As the name suggests, Southern Cricket Frogs give a distinctive, repetitive cricket-like chirping call.
#5. American Green Tree Frog
- Dryophytes cinereus
- Adults can grow up to 2.5 inches long and have smooth skin.
- Yellowish-green to lime green with pale yellow or white undersides.
- White stripes down their sides sometimes have black borders.
Even though they are common in their range, Green Tree Frogs can be hard to find since they spend most of their lives high in trees.
American Green Tree Frog Range Map
During mating season, they visit ponds, lakes, marshes, and streams to breed and lay eggs. They prefer bodies of water with a lot of vegetation. They also can change color based on light and temperature.
Their breeding call is a repeated, abrupt, nasal “bark.“ Sound is typically the best way to locate these tree frogs in South Carolina.
Green Tree Frogs are often kept as pets. They are popular because of their attractive appearance, size, and how easy it is to take care of them. For example, they don’t require artificial heating like most amphibians. But being nocturnal, it’s unlikely you will see them moving around much, so they are probably not the most exciting pets!
#6. Bird-voiced Tree Frog
- Dryophytes avivoca
- Small tree frog that grows up to 2 inches long.
- Normally pale grey or brown, but it can also be shades of pale green.
- Look for a dark cross-shape on their back and darker limbs.
Bird-voiced Tree Frogs are found in South Carolina in swampy forests, marshes, and wetlands. They look very similar to the larger Gray Tree Frog, so be careful when identifying.
Bird-voiced Tree Frog Range Map
These nocturnal tree frogs rarely leave the trees, except on rainy nights to breed. Females deposit their eggs into shallow pools and then leave to head back upwards. Tadpoles take about a month to metamorphize into adults, who then disperse into the forest.
Another way to correctly identify this species is to listen for them. Their “wit-wit-wit” sound is distinctive. While it’s mainly heard at night, don’t be surprised to hear a few males calling during daylight hours.
As you can probably guess from their name, many people think they sound like a bird!
#7. Pine Woods Tree Frog
- Dryophytes femoralis
- Adults range from 1 to 1.5 inches long.
- Mottled coloring including browns, grays, reddish-browns, and grayish-greens with dark markings on the back.
- Yellow, orange, or white dots can be seen on the back of the thigh when the leg is extended.
You’ll find the Pine Woods Tree Frog in South Carolina in pine flatwoods, pine-oak forests, and cypress swamps. Spending most of their time high in the trees, they have large sticky toe pads and minimally webbed feet.
Pine Woods Tree Frog Range Map
During the breeding season, you can spot them in or near fish-free bodies of water, including shallow ponds, marshes, wetlands, cypress swamps, and ditches. The female lays eggs in shallow water where the tadpoles will live for about two months as they change into tree frogs.
Pine Woods Tree Frogs give a unique sporadic or staccato chattering mating call which has earned it the nickname “the Morse code frog.”
#8. Barking Tree Frog
- Dryophytes gratiosus
- Adults range from 2 to 2.8 inches long.
- Most often bright green, but may also be gray, brown, or yellowish with dark spots on its back.
- Uniformly rough skin with light stripes down its sides.
This species is the largest tree frog native to South Carolina!
Barking Tree Frog Range Map
You can spot Barking Tree Frogs in various woodland habitats where they spend most of their time in trees and bushes. During the breeding season, they visit fishless wetlands where the female will lay her eggs. They also sometimes burrow into mud or rotten logs where they’re protected from predators.
These tree frogs are named for their explosive, loud “tonk” call, which is repeated every 1-2 seconds.
#9. Squirrel Tree Frog
- Dryophytes squirellus
- Adults are around 1.5 inches long.
- Typically green, although individuals may be varying shades of yellow or brown with white or brown blotching.
- The upper lip is often yellowish, and they sometimes feature whitish stripes.
These small tree frogs are found in South Carolina in a variety of urbanized and natural habits.
Squirrel Tree Frog Range Map
They can be seen on trees and buildings, in backyards, pine-oak forests, hardwood forests, floodplains, and pine flat woods. You might even find them visiting your porch to catch bugs that are attracted to the lights!
To breed, they visit wetlands like ephemeral pools, roadside ditches, and other small water bodies that lack predatory fish.
During the breeding season, you may hear Squirrel Tree Frogs giving a raspy, duck-like call.
#10. 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 South Carolina, 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 South Carolina?
Leave a comment below!