tree frog

tree frog facts

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Tree frogs are one of the strangest amphibians in the world, thanks to their adorable eyes and unique legs and toes that allow them to climb trees with ease.


Unlike their somewhat stocky terrestrial counterparts, tree frogs are often brightly colored, making them some of the most popular zoo exhibits. Since they are primarily nocturnal, their distinctive calls often allow them to be heard rather than seen in their native habitat. Although these frogs primarily live in tropical climates, some species live in more temperate regions and hibernate during the winter.

5 Unbelievable Facts!

  • In Europe, these frogs have traditionally been regarded as barometers, as they bark in response to incoming rain.
  • Most of these frog species can change skin color, sometimes because of their mood, in a range of shades of green, gray, brown and yellow.
  • White's tree frogs have a great sense of hearing and can sense vibrations in the ground.
  • Red-eyed tree frogs are considered ambassadors for these frog species because of their vivid eyes.
  • These frogs have an extra eyelid to cover their eyes. They also blink when swallowing to force their prey down.

You can check out more incredible facts about tree frogs.

scientific name and history

Pine Barren Tree Frog (Hyla andersonii)
The pinewood tree frog ( Hyla andersonii ) is a member of the Hyla family, and thus one of the "true" tree frogs.

©Breck P. Kent/

Tree frogs include several families of the order Anura . The Hyla family , whose scientific name is Hyla and sometimes called true tree frogs, is the most numerous—about 40 genera and about 700 species. The scientific names of Nonhylid tree frogs include Centrolenidae, Hyperoliidae, Rhacophoridae, and Microhylidae.

Frogs have lived on Earth for about 100 million years. There is fossil evidence that the red-eyed tree frog remained largely unchanged for more than 10 million years. The reason there are so many different species from several different biological families is a process called convergent evolution. That is, similar living conditions caused them to evolve to look very similar.

For the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians, frogs symbolized fertility, while for the ancient Greeks and Romans, frogs represented not only fertility, but harmony and indulgence. Frogs have long been popular characters in folklore and fairy tales, including one that turns into a prince after being kissed by a beautiful maiden.

Types of tree frogs

The Bornean eared frog ( Polypedates otilophus, family Rhacophoridae) is endemic to Borneo but also occurs in Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia


While there are too many species of tree frogs to list here, some notable ones include:

  • White-lipped tree frog – largest, lives in Australia and Oceania
  • Cuban Tree Frog – the largest tree frog in the Western Hemisphere, found in the Caribbean and southeastern United States
  • Red-eyed tree frog – shiny, bulging eyes; largely unchanged for 10 million years, found in southern Mexico, Central and northern South America.
  • American green tree frog – bright green and uses a variety of calls to communicate
  • White's tree frog (aka dumpy tree frog or Australian tree frog) – Encases its body in caerviein to keep it hydrated and lives in Australia and New Guinea.
  • Gray Tree Frog – Lives in North America
  • The little grass frog – the smallest tree frog, lives in cypress swamps in Virginia, Florida and Alabama.
  • Boophis (aka bright-eyed or skeleton) tree frog – the only genus in the subfamily Boophinae; found in Madagascar and Mayotte.
  • Other names you may come across include the European Green Frog, Spring Peeping Frog, Pine Barren Tree Frog, Bornean Eared Tree Frog, Cope's Gray Tree Frog, and the Pacific Tree Frog, the frog that makes the famous "rabbit" sound Attributed to all the frogs in TV and movies.
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More details about these frogs are given below.


cuban tree frog
This Cuban tree frog shows off its distinctive feet with odd toe bones and toe pads.

© Steve Bauer/

The most distinctive feature of tree frogs is their feet, as the last bone in their toes is claw-shaped. Toe pads with tiny suction cups and exoskeletal structures on the toes also help them climb trees. They come in a variety of colors, the most common being green, gray or brown.

Due to their predominantly arboreal habitat, where they live on leaves and twigs, most of these frogs are smaller and often more slender than terrestrial frogs. The smallest species are less than an inch long.

The largest of these frogs is the white-lipped tree frog, found in Australia and Oceania, which can vary in length from 4 inches to 5.5 inches. The largest species in the Western Hemisphere is the Cuban tree frog, found in the Caribbean and the southeastern United States at 1.5 to 5 inches in length. It is brown and has a somewhat plain and chunky appearance.

A colorful red-eyed tree frog in a tropical setting.
The red-eyed tree frog can blink its bulging eyes to show off its bright body color and startle potential predators.

©Brandon Alms/

One of the most striking members of the hydrozoan family, the red-eyed tree frog may have evolved bright eyes in part to make predators question their food choices and seek out less intimidating prey. Another adaptation, called startle coloration, allows the red-eyed tree frog to flash its bulging eyes and reveal webbed orange feet and bright blue and yellow sides, often causing birds and snakes to stop in surprise, which gives Frog time to escape. Their bright green color may also overstimulate the eyes of predators by producing confusing ghostly images.

American green tree frogs are bright green, which helps them camouflage themselves in the surrounding foliage in the wild. They have pale white or cream stripes from the sides of the head to the sides.

White tree frogs coat their bodies in a milky coating called caerviein, which helps them survive in dry areas by retaining body moisture. Scientists have used drugs extracted from their skin to fight staph bacteria, lower blood pressure and treat cold sores caused by the herpes virus.


Most species are nocturnal and solitary, but gather in large flocks during mating season. Many people sleep on leaves and branches all day. In the hot summer, white tree frogs often come to people's homes to find water to drink. When threatened, they let out a piercing screech. Green tree frogs communicate using a variety of barks. Adults often camouflage themselves by pulling their legs back and closing their eyes.


Copp's gray tree frog
The common gray tree frog, which is nearly identical to the gray tree frog, also lives in North America.


Tree frogs live on every continent except Antarctica, with the greatest concentration in Central and South America, where there are about 600 species. About 30 species live in the warmer regions of the southeastern United States. Most (but not all) species are arboreal, which is why they have long legs and toe pads to help them climb and jump. Non-arboreal species live in lakes and ponds or in moist ground cover.

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The red-eyed frog lives in the tropical lowlands from southern Mexico and Central America to northern South America. They are nocturnal and hide in the canopy of the rainforest.

An adaptable species called the white tree frog lives in Australia and New Guinea. They prefer moist forests and don't usually live near bodies of water, collecting rainwater from leaves, cup plants, and crevices. The species' adaptations allow them to live with people in suburban and agricultural areas, where they are commonly found in bathrooms, tanks and reservoirs.


Color Changing Animals - Gray Tree Frog
Bark is the element most commonly mimicked by gray tree frogs.

© Deatonphotos/

Like other amphibians, these frogs are carnivores, eating insects such as crickets, flies, worms, spiders, moths, and other invertebrates. Large Cuban frogs will eat anything they can fit in their mouths, including lizards, snakes, small mammals, and even other frogs. These frogs use their long, sticky tongues to ambush unsuspecting prey. For a full list of what tree frogs eat, check out our "What Do Tree Frogs Eat?" page.

Predators and Threats

Predators include various mammals, reptiles, birds, and even some large fish, mainly due to the frog's small size. The official conservation status of these frogs is considered to be of least concern due to their widespread distribution and presumed high numbers. However, the overall population of these frogs faces threats, including habitat destruction by humans, pollution, climate change and disease. Habitat destruction is a problem in Europe, although conservation efforts in several European countries have successfully re-established some tree frog habitat.

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

Males of nearly every species bark to attract mates, and each species of tree frog has its own unique call.

green tree frog tadpole
Green tree frogs hatch into tadpoles and are placed in water to develop into adults.

© Macrolife/

Some frogs hatch into tiny adults, but more commonly, these frogs hatch into tadpoles, which then develop into adults. Females lay eggs on leaves above the water surface, allowing the hatched tadpoles to fall into the water to develop. Metamorphosis from tadpole to adult can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

White tree frogs begin breeding in their second year, usually feasting for a few days before mating. Males grow a black pad on their thumb to help grab the female during mating. Clutch size varies by species and can hold 150 to 1,000 eggs, with hatching beginning about 28 to 36 hours after spawning.

Lifespan varies by species, with some living for less than three years. North American gray tree frogs live about 5 years, while Australian tree frogs can live up to 15 years in captivity. White tree frogs generally live around 16 years, but can live up to 21 years in captivity.


Scientists have no real estimate of the global population of these frogs because they are widely distributed and not endangered. However, their numbers are thought to be declining as humans continue to encroach on their habitat.

in the zoo

The Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is home to the red-eyed and white tree frogs. Both species feed on crickets, cockroaches and worms. The best time to see these frogs at the zoo is early morning and evening. They are mainly nocturnal animals, so most of the time, visitors will see them sleeping on the green leaves of the exhibit. You'll have to watch carefully though, as these frogs tend to blend into their environment.

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Tree Frog FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are tree frogs herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Tree frogs are carnivores, which means they eat other animals.

To which kingdom do tree frogs belong?

Tree frogs belong to the animal kingdom.

Which class do tree frogs belong to?

Tree frogs are amphibians.

What phylum do tree frogs belong to?

Tree frogs belong to the phylum Chordate.

What family do tree frogs belong to?

Tree frogs belong to the family Hydrozoidae.

What order do tree frogs belong to?

Tree frogs belong to the order Anura.

What type of mulch do tree frogs have?

Tree frogs are covered with permeable skin.

What type of habitat do tree frogs live in?

Tree frogs live in forests, woodlands, and swamps.

What is the main prey of tree frogs?

Tree frogs prey on insects, worms, and small frogs.

What are the natural enemies of tree frogs?

Natural enemies of tree frogs include birds, mammals, and reptiles.

How many eggs do tree frogs lay?

Tree frogs typically lay 50 eggs.

What are some interesting facts about tree frogs?

Tree frogs live in warm jungles and forests!

What is the lifespan of a tree frog?

Tree frogs can live 2 to 4 years.

How fast are tree frogs?

Tree frogs can travel at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour.

Where do tree frogs live?

Every continent except Antarctica provides a home for tree frogs. They usually live in forests, woodlands and swamps with high humidity in tropical or subtropical climates, mostly near water.

What do tree frogs eat?

Tree frogs are carnivorous and eat a variety of insects, including flies, ants, crickets, beetles, and moths. However, when they are tadpoles, they eat mostly plants.

Are tree frogs dangerous?

Touching tree frogs can be potentially dangerous to humans and animals because the skin of some species contains a toxin that protects the front from predators. Toxins in the skin can cause swelling, nausea, and even death in small animals.

Can you keep a tree frog as a pet?

American tree frogs ( Hyla cinerea ) make great pets, but because their skin is mildly venomous, you should never handle them with your bare hands.

What do tree frogs need to survive?

First, they need a moist, warm environment with at least 70 percent humidity. When kept in captivity, tree frogs do not require direct sunlight, only light sources that mimic the diurnal cycle. They also need a steady diet of insects or worms and temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is the Difference Between Tree Frog and Toad?

Tree frogs are one of more than 800 species of arboreal frogs in the family Aquaidae. Toads (or true toads) include more than 300 species of the Bufo family. The key differences between tree frogs and toads are habitat, size, appearance, reproduction and behavior.

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  1. National Wildlife Federation, available here:
  2. National Geographic, available here:
  3. Wikipedia, available here:
  4. The Spruce Pets, available here:
  5. Smithsonian's National Zoo and Biological Institute, available here:
  6. UF Department of Wildlife Conservation and Ecology, available here: