Meet Hyla regilla – or, as many call it, the Pacific Tree Frog. It is entirely possible that you have never seen one despite their abundance in British Columbia. After all, a full-grown adult is typically less than 5 centimetres long. It may be helpful to think of them as the raccoons of Amphibia – they can be found in many environments, including urban settings, and are characterized by a black “mask” that runs from the nostril to the shoulder. But unlike raccoons, these small frogs won’t be found tipping over your garbage bins. While you may find them in city settings, they’ll be hiding in a garden or even in potted plants on a balcony!
More likely, you will spot one during the breeding season when the Pacific Tree Frog migrates to shallow wetlands in early spring. The males arrive first and produce loud choruses to attract females. Interestingly, the Pacific Tree Frog can be distinctly identified amongst a pool of frog calls; unlike the common one-syllable ‘crick‘, the male chorus is a distinct two-syllable ‘krek-ek‘.
After mating, females lay egg clusters attached to bits of vegetation. Hatching typically occurs only 2 weeks later! After another 2 months, the tadpoles metamorphose. Incredibly, the newly metamorphosed frogs may be less than 1 centimetre long. They mature rather quickly and may even breed the following year.
As mentioned, spotting them may be onerous. Remember to look for the “mask” over the eye, as that will be their most distinguishing feature. Their colour may range from tan to green – not exactly the most helpful cue. Their underside is relatively consistent, often pale cream in colour (the photograph at the top of the article displays this well). If you decide to keep a close eye for Pacific Tree Frogs, consider taking part in B.C. Frogwatch. B.C. Frogwatch is a program that collects information on frogs, toads, salamanders and turtles in the province, and provides the information to professionals engaged in research and conservation. So when you spot (or hear) one of these tiny amphibians, make sure to report the spotting! The information you provide may even help scientists learn more about climate change, as the timing of frog calls are correlated to weather.
Pretty neat, isn’t it?