These two species — the gray treefrog and Cope’s gray treefrog — are very similar. Both have warty skin and prominent adhesive pads on fingers and toes. The color varies from green to light greenish gray, gray, brown, or dark brown. Except for very light individuals, a few large, irregular dark blotches are usually present on the back. A large white spot is always present below each eye. The belly is white. The area inside of the hind legs is yellow or orange yellow, with gray or black mottling. The call of the gray treefrog (H. versicolor) is a musical birdlike trill. The call of Cope’s gray treefrog (H. chrysoscelis) is a high-pitched buzzing trill, and this species tends to be smaller and is more often green than its lookalike relative.
Similar species: The green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) is the only other treefrog in Missouri, and it is indeed truly green. Except for an introduced population in Camden County, it is restricted to swampy areas in the Mississippi Lowlands in southeastern Missouri.
Body length: 1¼ to 2 inches.
Statewide. The gray treefrog (H. versicolor) occurs in northeastern, eastern, southern, and central Missouri. Cope’s gray treefrog (H. chrysoscelis) occurs in eastern, southeastern, northwestern, and western Missouri. The two species are often found in the same counties.
Habitat and Conservation
These treefrogs are forest dwellers and live in small woodlots, in trees along prairie streams, in large tracts of mixed hardwood forest, and in bottomland forests along rivers and in swamps. Some reside in knotholes and water-filled cavities in a variety of trees. They also rest on large leaves or in nooks and crannies of farm buildings, or in porches, decks, or empty birdhouses.
These frogs eat insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.
In Missouri, normally active from April to October, and breed from early April to early July. Males gather and call at fishless sloughs, woodland ponds, and swamps. Females produce 900–3,000 or more eggs, in clumps of 20–90 attached to floating vegetation. Eggs hatch in 4 or 5 days. The tadpoles turn into froglets by about 2 months. Gray treefrogs overwinter belowground. Like some other frogs, they produce a substance in their blood that functions as antifreeze.
The trilling and buzzing of this species during breeding season can make an early summer evening pleasant. The fact that these frogs dispatch so many insects helps make our outdoor time pleasant, too. When you hear them calling from trees, you might at first guess the sound is coming from a bird.
These frogs eat insects, spiders, and other invertebrates and are preyed upon by bullfrogs, wading birds, and ribbon-, garter-, and watersnakes. The tadpoles are eaten by predaceous aquatic insects and salamander larvae. Fishing spiders, bullfrogs, and green frogs eat the young froglets.