The northern cricket frog's color is quite variable: gray, tan, greenish tan, or brown. The back may have a irregular green, yellow, orange, or brown stripe. There is always a dark triangle between the eyes, a series of light and dark bars on the upper jaw, and an irregular black or brown stripe along the inside of each thigh. The belly is white. The feet are strongly webbed, but the adhesive pads on fingers and toes are poorly developed. The call is a metallic “gick, gick, gick.”
Length: ⅝ to 1½ inches.
Habitat and Conservation
Commonly seen along the edges of ponds, streams, and rivers, especially on open areas of mud flats and gravel bars. Recent surveys indicate that this species is gone or nearly gone from Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and Indiana, but the cause of this decline has not been determined. Missouri populations need to be monitored.
A variety of small terrestrial insects are eaten.
Common, but populations bear monitoring due to serious declines in other states. Older references may refer to this animal as Blanchard’s cricket frog, but that subspecies is no longer recognized.
In Missouri, northern cricket frogs are active from late March to early November. Breeding is from late April to mid-July in shallows of ponds and backwaters with an abundance of aquatic plants. Warm temperatures stimulate males to chorus; both calling and noncalling males can be successful breeders. A female may lay up to 400 eggs, either singly or in small packets of up to 7, which are attached to submerged vegetation. Eggs hatch in a few days, and tadpoles begin metamorphosis 5–10 weeks later.
The calls of this species resemble the sound of small pebbles being rapidly struck together. This provides music day and night to Missouri’s outdoors. Also, like other frogs, northern cricket frogs prey on numerous insects that humans consider pests.
Numerous predators eat the eggs, tadpoles, and adults of this species. Tadpoles have black-tipped tails that entice predators to aim for the tail tip as opposed to the tadpole’s head. Adults avoid predators by a series of quick, erratic hops.