Noises, on and off and on and off, etc…..

Jeremiah might have been a bullfrog, but unlike him, most, no, make that all, of the bullfrogs I have ever heard have all requested a “jug o rum” instead of wine, mighty fine or not. They must have some great parties at night at the edges of the lake!

All kidding aside, bullfrogs are typically heard during the summer when you can be kept awake at night if you happen to live close to an area where they set up camp. And, perhaps to make matters worse, when one starts its sonorous deep-throated calling, all the other bullfrogs in the neighborhood add their voices to the chorus which then, all of a sudden stops. And then you lie there waiting for it to start all over again. The golden silence lasts not long. They also have three types of calls – for territory definition, for advertising for females, and ones specific to pre-combat between competing males. The great naturalist Bernd Heinrich was drawn into a swamp at midnight by such a ‘fiendish cacophony’ wondering if it was typical in times of the dinosaurs. In fact, it was the voice of an amphibian that first was heard in the air of the early earth, the only other sounds being made by insects. It is speculated that the sound of the combined bullfrog calls travels farther than a single one and could attract female frogs from a wider area than more than a single garumphing male. The silence might be a time to listen for other bullfrog calls or just a time out to rest. And of course the main reason for the chorus is because it’s time to mate.

Frogs of all kinds mate in the water. Their eggs, which have no protective shell, are fertilized as they are released, the female frog held in position by the male during the mating process which is called amplexus. Eggs, which can number about 20,000 per release, then become part of the food web as they can be gobbled up by aquatic insects and fish. Or not – some fish and other would-be predators find the taste of both eggs and larvae off-putting. Not so the adult. There are numerous predators including birds such as herons and kingfishers, otters, and of course, humans. Frogs legs! Taste like chicken?

Other tidbits from bullfrogdom: They have tiny teeth for grasping but it’s the tongue that is the primary food capturing implement; that and a strong jaw. And they are pretty much omnivorous predators themselves – prey items include insects including aquatic ones, fish and tadpoles, but also (gulp) birds, bats and rodents. Adult female bullfrogs (who are not referred to as cowfrogs; a cow frog, however, is another name for a leopard frog!) are larger than the male – can weigh a pound or more and can live up to 10 years. The males are territorial, keeping a distance of about 10-20 feet from other competitors, and form ‘choruses’, what else could they be called, groupings that are flexible in their members, continuously forming and breaking up. Although the males remain in breeding form for two to three months, the females are only interested and receptive for only one night. Puts a new spin on Night of the Iguana… er, Bullfrog.

Amy Campbell