Amphibians and Reptiles of Minnesota

A Complete On-line Field Guide to Minnesota's Amphibians and Reptiles

Eastern Gray Treefrog - Hyla versicolor PDF Print E-mail
Frogs, Toads and Treefrogs of Minnesota - Frogs, Toads and Treefrogs of Minnesota

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Eastern gray treefrog, Hyla versicolor












Synonyms: Gray Treefrog.


No status assigned in Minnesota.


The eastern gray treefrog is one of two look alike species of treefrog in Minnesota. This species is about 2 3/8 inches long snout to vent. They can change from a bright green to gray (almost brown) in seconds. Unlike most Cope's gray treefrogs, eastern gray treefrogs may have a pattern on their back and these markings are bordered by black. The belly is white and usually unmarked. The throat may be dark in males. The insides of the thighs and legs are washed with bright orange or yellow. They have relatively rough skin compared to Cope's gray treefrogs. The large toe pads distinguish them from several other species of Minnesota anurans.

The eastern gray treefrog is identical in appearance to the Cope's gray treefrog. There is (as of now, anyway) no reliable way to distinguish these frogs based on appearance on a consistent basis. The pattern on the backs of each species is unreliable as they both may or may not have a pattern; observations based on positive identification indicates that one has a pattern more often than the other. The only steadfast differences between these two species is the number of chromosomes (the Cope's gray treefrog is a diploid, the eastern gray treefrog is a tetraploid), and that the eastern gray treefrog has larger red blood cells than the Cope's gray treefrog, and differences in the advertisement calls of the males (see habits).


There are no subspecies of Hyla versicolor recognized.


The eastern gray treefrog is probably found throughout the state. Because Cope's gray treefrog and eastern gray treefrogs were once considered the same species, historic records of this frog are unclear. Recent records and sightings find this frog in all of Minnesota except for some counties in south central and southwestern Minnesota.


Eastern gray treefrogs are reported to prefer more wooded habitats than the Cope's gray treefrog. I have not seen or heard Cope's gray treefrogs inside heavily wooded forests. Both species may be found together in forest edges and at night around lighted buildings in towns.


This treefrog is well known for it's climbing ability. It can scale most surfaces, even glass, with the use of its adhesive toe pads. Each 'pad' secretes a mucous that creates tension between the pad and the surface. This enables the frog to cling to smooth surfaces. They breed from May to July. They use permanent or semi permanent wetlands to breed. The males call from vegetation in the water. The call is the best way to distinguish this treefrog from the Cope's gray treefrog. The eastern gray treefrog's call has a slower trill, and sounds much more musical and bird-like. Tadpoles have a red-tipped tail, unique among Minnesota's tadpoles. Tadpoles transform in 2 to 2 1/2 months. They are always bright green when they transform and will remain so for some time. Color change in adults varies depending on temperature, activity level, and color of surroundings. Adults migrate to summer feeding habitats after the mate. They may call periodically from their perches throughout the summer, especially in evening or after rains. This species is reported to call from higher perches than Cope's gray treefrog.

They overwinter under shelters of bark, leaves, rocks or logs. These frogs prevent ice crystal from forming in their organs by changing glycerol into glucose and circulating through the organs. The remaining water in the body is allowed to freeze. The frog is basically frozen until spring. The Cope's gray treefrog and the eastern gray treefrog were considered the same species until recently. The Cope's gray treefrog was found to be diploid (normal numbers of chromosomes) and the gray treefrog is a tetraploid (twice the number of chromosomes).


Gray treefrogs catch insects and other invertebrates for food. They are quite acrobatic catching flying insects in mid air. They hang around street lamps or other lights at night. They are commonly seen on windows and sides of cabins or rural homes at night. They remain hidden in little crevices or other loose shelters during the day.


An eastern gray treefrog from Hennepin County, Minnesota


An eastern gray treefrog from Fillmore County, Minnesota


An eastern gray treefrog from Fillmore County, Minnesota


A pair of eastern gray treefrogs in amplexus, from Washington County, Minnesota

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