Frogs are singing for spring in Sonoma County

Jeanne Wirka, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

We humans have come up with some poetic collective nouns for animals. A murder of crows. A parliament of owls. Even a shrewdness of apes (now also the name of a band). So it seems we missed the proverbial lily pad when we came up with the term “army” to describe the millions of frogs that welcome spring with their delightful and often deafening chorus. As few Californians are more joyously vocal about the possible end to the California drought this year, I humbly offer a happiness of frogs as an alternative.

The frogs we hear performing their seasonal symphony right now in the North Bay are Pacific chorus frogs, or sometimes called simply tree frogs. Sticklers for taxonomic accuracy will correctly point out that our local Pacific chorus frog was recently renamed the Sierran chorus frog (Pseudacris sierra) when the genus that was formerly known as Pseudacris regilla was split into three species. Because there remains controversy surrounding the name change, I and many other local naturalists are sticking with Pacific chorus frog as the more descriptive and intuitive moniker.

How do I know it’s a Pacific chorus frog?

Pacific chorus frogs range in color through a palette of bright yellow-greens, creamy oranges, reddish tinges, and most commonly a mottled beige or brown. While general coloring of an individual frog does not change, all color varieties have a spectacular ability to adjust their brightness in response to temperature, humidity and even stress. Pacific chorus frogs also vary greatly in size. An adult frog recently transformed from its tadpole form could easily perch on the tip of your pinkie finger. These diminutive “metamorphs” can eventually grow to a maximum of about 2 inches from the tip of their nose to their urostyle, a posterior section of fused vertebrae roughly analogous to a “rump.”

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