Treefrog Mates With Toad?

Thunderstorms dropped heavy rain on western Kentucky on April 24, so I wasn’t surprised that frogs and toads burst into action that evening:

Frog and Toad Chorus with Lang talking – recorded 24 April 2010 by Lang Elliott at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky.

The major species singing were the Cope’s Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis), whose song is a brief rattling trill, and the American Toad (Bufo americaus), whose song is a long musical trill. Below I feature recordings of both. I also heard Spring Peepers and a few calls from Northern Cricket Frogs. I may have even heard an Upland Chorus Frog.

My real “catch of the night,” however, was finding a male Cope’s Gray Treefrog mounted on top of a male American Toad, in the mating position known as “amplexus”. Do these two species hybridize? Heavens no, and anyway, these are both males! Nonetheless, I presume the treefrog is happy with his catch, unaware that the liaison will not lead to procreation. Is the toad “happy” with the arrangement? I bet not—perhaps “annoyed” is a better word for his state of mind. One wonders why he doesn’t just “shake it off” and get on with his life:

placeholder image for treefrog and toad mating video

Parallels with human behavior are obvious—misguided “attachment” contributing to a relationship that obviously isn’t going anywhere. Sound familiar?


First off, here is a closeup of two male Cope’s Gray Treefrogs, with an American Toad periodically sounding off in the background:

Brief rattling trills of two Cope’s Gray Treefrogs. Recorded by Lang Elliott at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky, April 24, 2010, at 9:18 pm.

Here is a clean recording of the melodic trills of an American Toad, the same toad that calls in the background in the above recording:

Calls of an American Toad. Recorded by Lang Elliott at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky, April 24, 2010, at 9:18 pm.

Here’s something special. In this chorus of Cope’s Gray Treefrogs, listen for occasional “chirping squeaks.” These are the aggression calls of the males, given by a an upset male when another male gets too close (I’ve marked the locations of the chirps with “x”):

Calls of Cope’s Gray Treefrogs with aggressive chirps interspersed—chirps are marked with an ‘x’. Recorded by Lang Elliott at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky, April 24, 2010, at 9:15 pm.

One last recording. If you were listening carefully when you watched the featured video, you will have noticed a Whip-poor-will singing in the background. Well, I chased him down and got a fair recording. It was a little breezy and there was a whooshy stream nearby, but this is special: my first whip-ppor-will recording of the season. I’ve been hearing them at Land Between the Lakes for two days now. Enjoy!:

Songs of a Whip-poor-will. Recorded by Lang Elliott at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky, April 24, 2010, at 9:05 pm..


  1. This! is what I would long for in a frog/toad recording. maybe some green frogs and peepers thrown in too…
    there are so few cope’s gray treefrogs around here, where I live in virginia… There used to be more… Same with the american toad… 🙁
    As for the whippoorwill, those are symbolic to me. I was having a terrible flu and I dreamed of the whippoorwill. I had not heard their “august” calls at that time, but I dreamed of them. One on my deck. me, with my recorder. Standing outside recording him close up. He was tiny, for some reason I was able to hold him which I know would never happen. Red-wings, american toads and katydids called in the background.
    The next day I felt much better. I remembered the dream because it seemed a sign of hope when I was in such a scary, painful situation.

    Funny about those calls too. had never heard them and they turned out to be real… odd.
    thank you for the recordings and for putting up with my rambling… 🙂

  2. Wonderful! I would’ve thought that a treefrog trying to mate with a toad is unheard of. This is just brilliant. I love the recordings as well. Cope’s Gray Treefrog has a very scattered range in Michigan. I’ve never heard one, if that tells you something. Whippoorwills are rare and declining in Michigan, but I heard someone say that when she was a child, she’d hear Whippoorwills all the time, but now she hasn’t heard one in years. Sad, isn’t it?

  3. Hi, Just brought a place up here in the Poconos Pa. I came across a tiny fellow in the new garden that runs along the native Rhodos. He’s about 3 1/2 inches to 4 inches, solid green color, smooth and very narrow. I’ve been searching the web for a picture of this guy but all photos show pudgey frogs (or toad?). Could he be the type that make a quaking noise at night, later in the summer?
    I went out with the camera but it was gone. This poor guy had an eye missing but got around very well. Would you kindly write me back with the name? I hate not knowing and I’m not finding it online.

  4. great sounds the whip-poor-will and the bull frog brought back great memories of camping in the summers. If you run across a common loon perhaps you could record that as well.
    Thanks again.

  5. Wow, what a great night. Unfortunate that the storms were so severe but the frog and toad choruses are really special and enjoyable to experience.
    A puddle in the road, holding a magical chorus that is now shared with the world—that IS magic.
    A very nice atmospheric recording of the whip-poor-will. I have been hearing them back home since Friday April 23. They are so great to listen to up close, so that you can hear the quiet note at the beginning of the song.
    A wonderful post.

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