We came home after dark the other night, the Beach Boys on the car stereo — Ursula’s choice. I turned off the engine and opened the door to another chorus: spring peepers.
Spring peepers are almost impossible to see — they’re only about the size of a paper clip — but get a couple hundred of them together, and they’re impossible to miss. Every year, their nighttime music trumpets the news that the vernal pools and wetlands are free of ice and open for partying. Like teenagers at a rock concert, the more of them that gather together in those wet, marshy areas, the louder and rowdier they become.
The male frogs are the ones responsible for the din. They make their high-pitched “peep, peep, peep” by inflating their throat sac. Scientists have discovered that they often compete with each other in trios. The best singer, which in the Peeper Idol competition means the frog that croaks highest and most aggressively, has the best chance of getting the girl.
Some other interesting facts: • The scientific name for spring peepers is Pseudacris crucifer. Crucifer means “cross,” and refers to the dark “X” on the back of the peepers we have here along the East Coast. • You’re likely to hear peepers on a warm, wet night between March and May. • They spend the winter under leaf litter or other protection, but are able to freeze nearly through — their hearts get pumped full of a sort of sugary anti-freeze — and thaw out again. • After the party is over, female frogs lay clusters of as many as 1000 eggs, attaching them underwater to sticks or reeds. Each egg is no bigger than a grain of rice. The eggs hatch in about a week. Once the tadpoles lose their tails and become full-grown frogs, they leave their watery home and move into the forest. • Spring peepers live about three years, returning each spring to the pools and ponds for another froggy Woodstock.
Learn more Read a short description from National Geographic. Watch this short video of a single peeper: