A Fun Guest in Our Landscape

This little animal, the Rio Grande Chirping Frog, arrives singing, and he (or she) sings non-stop from late spring until winter. I hear them all around me when I go outdoors in the evenings to walk Zeus the dog or check on the sprinklers.

They’re up in the trees (best I can tell). They’re hanging out in the shrubs (I think). Some websites list them as terrestrial, but they’re always above my head when I hear them. Every one of them has a distinct voice, and they seem to carry on long talks with one another. I stand as a silent witness to it all wondering how this magical performing stage all happened to appear at my house back those couple of years ago.

My first task was to figure out who was doing the singing. I recorded it and tried to match it up through Merlin (my bird-matching app) and on YouTube. Somewhere along the line I asked Siri what kind of animal might be making the mysterious music all through the night, and that was when the possibility of the Rio Grande Chirping Frog first came before my eyes.

This photo by Seth Patterson of the Rio Grande Chirping Frog appeared in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine, April 2012.

I did more reading and I found that this little frog had hitchhiked its way up from sub-tropical Deep South Texas. They rode in moist potting soil with tropical plants grown in the Valley. Actually, these unusual little frogs don’t have a tadpole stage, and the fertile eggs are their means of getting transported in moist soil.

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They were being reported in East Texas 10 to 15 years ago, and more recently they started to show up in the Metroplex where I buy many of my plants. We’ve been through several really cold winters since they first appeared in our gardens, so I’m guessing they’re here to stay.

Texas A&M wildlife specialists confirmed my recordings of their singing as being the chirping frogs. They say that these frogs eat tiny insects. They say that they have no detrimental impact on their environment. I just know that they make me smile every time I walk outside and hear them chirping at night.

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Finally, here’s a very short YouTube video to let you see the relative size and hear the sound of a Rio Grande Chirping Frog.

Screen capture of Rio Grande Chirping Frog on fingertip.
Posted by Neil Sperry
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