University of Maryland Extension

Interesting Visitors in Your Landscape

Author: 
Ray Bosmans, Professor Emeritus, University of MD
Spring Peeper, Photo Maryland Department of Natural Resources

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The Spring Peeper

This spring, be sure to take the time to notice, observe, and enjoy the many sights and sounds that announce that spring is here! Because of the mild winter you may hear Spring Peepers earlier than normal. They produce a high pitched single note song. The Spring Peeper is a true harbinger of spring. As the ice melts off the marshes, wetlands, and ponds he produces “songs of love” to attract a mate.

What is a “Spring Peeper”? It’s not an insect, nor a bird but a very tiny frog. Adults are only 1/2 inch (thumbnail size). They are often drab gray, brown or sometimes green. Their sound is produced in a vocal sack inflated with air under their throats. The sound can be heard for good distances. You are not very likely to actually have them in your yard but will hear them singing in near-by wetlands.


Wood Frog, Photo Maryland Department of Natural Resources

The Wood Frog

The Wood Frog is the next in line to sing its chorus in the spring. Its song sounds somewhat like a duck’s quack. The Wood Frog, like the Spring Peeper, is also very tolerant of the cold and may come out even when there is still some ice on the water. The Wood Frog is a small to medium sized frog (two inches) of a dark to medium brown color with a very dark brown, almost black mask around its eyes. Once very scarce in our region, the Wood Frog is making a nice come back due to the installation of many back yard water gardens. After its spring mating and singing rituals, Wood Frogs move from the water to live on the land much like a toad. On land it becomes a pinkish tan color but can still be recognized by its characteristic black eye mask.

American Toad
American Toad, Photo R. Bosmans

The American Toad

The song of the American Toad begins in early April and is a shrill low pitched whistle-like song. The largest toad species in Maryland, the American Toad reaches a mature size of around 3-4 inches. Mostly brown, reddish brown, and sometimes a rusty red with a few dark spots, the American Toad is covered with many ‘warts’. Toads are a close relative of frogs but are not as fast—moving or jumping, nor are they graceful swimmers like frogs. Toads also have a drier and rougher skin. But toads have real personality! Toad eggs look like long strands of jelly-like substance beneath the water’s surface. After mating the toads will leave the water to spend the rest of the year on the land.

 
Fowlers Toad, Photo Maryland Department of Natural Resources

The Fowlers Toad

The Fowlers Toad is a little smaller than the American Toad and instead of being brown its background color is grayish green. It does its mating and singing ritual later in the spring (May and June) than the American Toad. It is more common in areas that have sandy or silty soils such as near river and stream flood plains. They are also the toad often found living on the dunes of beaches.

The frogs and toads described in this article are all harmless to pets and people and they are all beneficial animals. In addition to being very interesting to have around, they help regulate insect and slug populations and they serve as an important food for other wildlife in the food web. When you see them, take some pictures, learn more about them and provide a healthy environment for them to live in your yard. To learn more about frogs and toads and hear their calls see the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s website.

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