Upland Chorus Frog

Media
Image of an upland chorus frog
Scientific Name
Pseudacris feriarum
Family
Hylidae (treefrogs and allies) in the order Anura (frogs)
Description

The upland chorus frog is a small gray or tan frog with dark dorsal stripes that are narrow or broken into a series of dashes or spots. Some frogs may lack dorsal markings. A gray, irregular stripe extends from the snout through the eye and down each side to the groin. A dark spot on the head between the eyes may be triangular. The belly is white. Breeding males have dark throats.

Breeding call of males is similar to that of the closely related Cajun chorus frog (Pseudacris fouquettei) and boreal chorus frog (Pseudacris maculata). All three species’ calls sound like running a finger along the tines of a pocket comb. The upland chorus frog call is a clicking trill of “crrreeeeek” with a rising inflection as it ends. It is difficult to distinguish the upland chorus frog call from the boreal chorus frog call. The boreal chorus frog call sounds slightly raspier or more metallic. Both the upland chorus frog and boreal chorus frog have a noticeably faster call rate and a shorter call length than the Cajun chorus frog.

Similar species: In the hylid family, nine species, in three genera, are native to Missouri:

  • Acris, the cricket frogs, one species: Blanchard’s cricket frog;
  • Hyla, the treefrogs, three species: gray treefrog, Cope’s gray treefrog, and green treefrog; and
  • Pseudacris, the chorus frogs, five species: spring peeper, upland chorus frog, Cajun chorus frog, Illinois chorus frog, and boreal chorus frog.

The upland chorus frog is very similar in appearance and natural history to the Cajun chorus frog and the boreal chorus frog. The three can be distinguished by genetics, color patterns, slight differences in calls, and distribution.

The distribution of the upland chorus frog and the Cajun chorus frog in Missouri is somewhat uncertain. The upland chorus frog appears to occur mostly within the Mississippi Lowlands of extreme southeastern Missouri, but the range seems to overlap with that of the Cajun chorus frog as one moves west. It also might overlap with the boreal chorus frog as one moves north in Missouri.

It is possible that previous records of frogs identified as upland chorus frogs from the southeastern Ozark Highlands are actually Cajun chorus frogs. It is also possible that upland chorus frogs are only found in the Mississippi Lowlands of extreme southeastern Missouri. Additional genetic studies are needed to better understand the boundaries of these three species, especially in potential areas of overlap.

Size

Adult length (snout to vent): ¾ to 1½ inches. Females are larger than males.

Where To Find
Upland Chorus Frog Distribution Map

Southeastern Missouri, including the southeastern Ozark Highlands as well as the Mississippi Alluvial Basin.

In Missouri, the upland chorus frog tends to live in small patches of woods, forested swamps, and river bottomland forests, especially those close to wetlands. They typically remain close to the forested habitat but will cross open agricultural fields to seek breeding wetlands if necessary. Upland chorus frogs take shelter under leaf litter, under small logs or tree bark lying on the ground, or in small animal burrows during the day. This frog is seldom seen outside of breeding season, when they are most active on damp nights when they search for prey.

This species hunts for a variety of small insects and spiders, especially during damp nights.

Common. Apparently it hybridizes with the boreal chorus frog where their ranges overlap.

Life Cycle

In Missouri, upland chorus frogs become active in February and breed in late winter or early spring, with most breeding activity occurring in March. Rainfall stimulates breeding. They may be the first frogs to chorus in southeastern Missouri.

Breeding occurs in temporary pools, flooded crop fields, ditches, and other shallow-water areas, especially where those sites are in or near forested habitat. Upland chorus frogs will move through large, open areas such as grasslands or crop fields to reach a breeding site if necessary.

Males often sing in the water with their head and forelegs above the water, grasping a blade of grass or plant stem. Females lay 200–500 or more eggs, in small, elongated clusters of 40–60 eggs. Females may lay two clutches per breeding season. Eggs usually hatch within a week. Transformation from tadpoles to froglets takes 6–10 weeks. Males become sexually mature within one year, while females often take up to two years.

These frogs help control populations of sometimes-troublesome insects; also, because they are sensitive to pollutants, they are an indicator species, whose health and population numbers help us to gauge the health of their ecosystem.

Chorus frogs and spring peepers are some of the earliest signs of spring in Missouri. After a long winter, it's wonderful to step outdoors at night and hear their welcome calls echoing from the woods.

These small frogs prey on numerous insects and spiders, helping to control their populations, but they also fall prey to many larger predators at each stage of their life cycle. There is even a documented instance of a spotted fishing spider turning the tables by eating an upland chorus frog.

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About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.