Green Frogs calling from small pond, with a “stutter-fest” interlude occurring at about the 2-minute mark. 12:15 am, 5 June 2016, Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area near Ithaca, New York. © Lang Elliott.
Green Frogs are easily identified by their throaty gunk! calls. They are a common species throughout the East, sounding off from ponds and lakes from late spring until mid-summer and beyond. In appearance, they resemble a small bullfrog, their distinguishing feature being prominent folds of skin (dorsolateral folds) extending from each eye backwards toward the tail.
Yesterday morning at 12:30 am, I recorded Green Frogs at a small woodland pond. With the temperature in the high 60’s, it was a laid-back performance, accentuated at times by the trills of a lone Gray Treefrog (with others calling in the distance). My intention was to present the soundscape on my blog as a slow-paced, meditative experience. But then something unexpected happened.
At about two minutes into the recording (1:56 to be exact), one of the frogs gave a stuttering series of calls. Then, over the next two minutes, the other green frogs joined in and treated me to a first class example of what I call a “Stutter-Frenzy.” During the frenzy, frogs were not only giving stutters, but also gunk! calls and spit-like sounds which signify aggression.
So what is the stutter-frenzy all about? Is it an outburst of celebration or does it have something to do with territoriality? Or both? To get to the bottom of this, I contacted Dr. Kentwood Wells, a professor at the University of Connecticut who has studied Green Frog behavior. He verified that the stutters are indeed aggressive calls, but didn’t explain what the contagious outbursts were all about. So here’s what I think:
When all the Green Frogs in a pond participate in a contagious stutter-fest, it is definitely a celebration of sorts, but one that is rooted in aggression and territoriality. All the territory owners (males in this case), whoop-it-up both for the fun of it and to make sure all their neighbors know their whereabouts and respect territorial boundaries.
Aggression mixed with celebration? Makes sense to me! Do you agree?
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