Friday, June 3, 2016

Episode 319 (6-6-16): Barking Treefrogs' Distinctive But Threatened Sounds

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:42)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, photos, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 6-3-16.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of June 6, 2016.

MUSIC – ~ 12 sec

This week, that music of “Baldcypress Swamp,” by Timothy Seaman of Williamsburg, sets a forest wetland scene for an amphibious mystery sound, one that’s heard in late spring and summer in swamps, ponds, and other lowland habitats.   Have a listen for about 12 seconds, and see if you can guess what’s making these sounds.  And here’s a hint: you’ll be barking up the right tree if your answer rhymes with dog.

SOUNDS - ~12 sec

If you guessed the Barking Treefrog, you’re right!  This two-to-three-inch-long frog is one of 900 species worldwide in the family of treefrogs, and one of six species in Virginia in the scientific genus Hyla, meaning “belonging to the woods.”   In Virginia, the Barking Treefrog inhabits forested wetlands and pine woodlands, or savannas, in the southeastern part of the Commonwealth. From May to August, it breeds in pools and other shallow-water areas in forests dominated by cypress, gum, and willow trees.   Like other treefrogs, adults of this species spend much of their non-breeding time in trees, which they climb with sticky toe pads on relatively large feet, and where they find their main diet of tree-dwelling insects.  During hot, dry, or cold weather, though, the Barking Treefrog may burrow into the ground.  Known for its dog-like calls, the Barking Treefrog is also remarkable for its color-changing ability.  Unfortunately, this species is listed in Virginia as a state threatened species, due largely to habitat loss from various land uses.

Efforts by Virginia citizens, businesses, and agencies to protect and restore forested wetlands and other important habitats have many objectives: one of them is keeping the right trees and water for Barking Treefrogs.

Thanks to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music, and thanks to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and to Lang Elliott for permission to use this week’s sounds.

SOUNDS - ~ 4 sec


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463. Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show. In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The Barking Treefrog sounds were from “The Calls of Virginia Frogs and Toads” CD, copyright 2008 by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Lang Elliott/NatureSoundStudio, used with permission.   For more information, see, or contact VDGIF at 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230; phone: (804) 367-1000 (VTDD); e-mail:  Lang Elliott’s work is available online at the “Music of Nature” Web site,

“Baldcypress Swamp” is from the CD “Virginia Wildlife,” copyright 2004 by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  Mr. Seaman’s Web site is  The “Virginia Wildlife” CD was a collaboration between Mr. Seaman and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.   “Baldcypress Swamp” was featured in Virginia Water Radio episodes 151 (3-4-13) and 269 (6-8-15).

Two photographs of a Barking Treefrog (Hyla gratiosa) in Virginia Beach, Va., 2006.
Photos by J.D. Kleopfer, used with permission.


Listed below are the six species of treefrogs in the genus Hyla that are known to occur in Virginia, along with their scientific names and the meaning of those names.  Source: John D. Kleopfer and Chris S. Hobson, A Guide to the Frogs and Toad of Virginia, Special Publication Number 3, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, 2011 (pages 18-23).

*Barking Treefrog, Hyla gratiosa (“belonging to the woods/pleasing”).
*Cope’s Gray Treefrog, Hyla chrysocelis (“belonging to the woods/gold spot”—referring to a spot below the eye).
*Gray Treefrog, Hyla versicolor (“belonging to the woods/various colors”).
*Green Treefrog, Hyla cinerea (“belonging to the woods/ash-colored”).
*Pine Woods Treefrog, Hyla femoralis (“belonging to the woods/pertaining to the hind leg”—the species has yellow spots on its inner thighs).
*Squirrel Treefrog, Hyla squirella (“belonging to the woods/little squirrel”—in response to approaching rain, this species is known to make a “rain call” that sounds like a squirrel’s alarm call).

The Barking Treefrog is the only frog listed in Virginia as state threatened, but several other frogs, other amphibians, and many other species (a total of 925) are listed in the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan as “species of greatest conservation need,” ranked in several tiers. The Wildlife Action Plan, published by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in 2005, is available online at


Used in Audio

AmphibiaWeb, “Hylidae,” online at

John D. Kleopfer and Chris S. Hobson, A Guide to the Frogs and Toad of Virginia, Special Publication Number 3, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, 2011; purchase information available online at

Bernard S. Martof, et al., Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1980.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, “Treefrogs—Family Hylidae,” online at

Karen Terwilliger, John R. Tate, and Susan L. Woodward, A Guide to Endangered and Threatened Species in Virginia, McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, Va., 1995.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, "The Natural Communities of Virginia/Classification of Ecological Community Groups/Bald Cypress-Tupelo Swamps (February 2016)," online at

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), “Frog Friday: Barking Treefrog,” 11/13/15, online at

VDGIF, “Special Legal Status Faunal Species in Virginia,” April 2016, online (as PDF) at

VDGIF, “Virginia Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at Information for the Barking Treefrog specifically is online at

VDGIF, “Virginia is for Frogs” Web site, online at Information on the Barking Treefrog specifically is online at

VDGIF, Virginia Wildlife Action Plan, 2005, online at

Virginia Herpetological Society, “Barking Treefrog/Hyla gratiosa,” online at

Herbert S. Zim and Hobart M. Smith, Golden Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Golden Books, New York, N.Y., 1987.

For More Information about Frogs and Other Amphibians

J.C. Mitchell and K.K. Reay, Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Virginia, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF)/Richmond (1999); available online at, courtesy of the Virginia Herpetological Society. (Herpetology refers to the study of amphibians and reptiles.)

VDGIF, “Virginia Frog and Toad Calling Survey,” online at; part of the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, online at These programs use the sensitivity of amphibians to water availability and quality as a tool for assessing changes or threats to aquatic systems. If you’re interested in helping monitor amphibian populations, consider volunteering! For more information, contact VDGIF at (804) 367-1000.

VDGIF, “Wildlife Information/Species Information/Amphibians” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (; see specifically the “Amphibians” subject category for several previous episodes on frogs and salamanders.


This episode may help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
1.5 - animals’ basic needs and distinguishing characteristics.
2.4 - life cycles.
3.4 - behavioral and physiological adaptations.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 - living things as part of a system, including habitats.
3.5 - food webs.
4.5 - ecosystem interactions and human influences on ecosystem.
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS. 4 - organisms’ classification based on features.
LS.8 - community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.
LS.11 - relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.8 - influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.

Biology Course
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2008 Social Studies SOLs:

Civics and Economics Course
CE.9 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 - how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

Government Course
GOVT.9 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at