Wednesday, March 9, 2011
In the spring, a young peeper’s fancy . . .
Among the myriad signs of spring, the sound of spring peepers is one of the most welcome. Maybe because these tiny “chorus frogs” start so early in March, or maybe because they too have made it through the long, hard winter. (They can allow most of their bodies to freeze during winter hibernation and still survive, according to National Geographic.com.)
Like their southern brethren (northern Florida and southern Georgia), northern peepers (widespread through the eastern US and Canada) are nocturnal carnivores with a body length from 1–1 ½ inches; they weigh up to 0.18 ounces. They’re tan, brown, olive or gray, and the slightly larger females are lighter in color.
Though peepers have large toe pads for climbing, Wikipedia reports, they're more at home amid loose debris of the forest floor. “They live primarily in forests and regenerating woodlands near ephemeral or semi-permanent wetlands.”
Male peepers make all the noise during evening and early morning hours. Vocal sacs near their throats expand and deflate like balloons to create a short, distinct, high-pitched peeping sound, or call, intended to attract mates. Depending on the number of peepers in a chorus, their calls can be heard up to 2 ½ miles away, and to some ears, the sound resembles sleigh bells.
Don’t bother trying to see spring peepers – just enjoy their sound and its symbolism.