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Why do Frogs Croak?

If you have ever been close to freshwater on a warm spring or summer evening, you have likely been serenaded by the constant call of frogs.

While I find frog calls to be joyful and relaxing, I know a lot of people that find them obnoxious and annoying.

You may be happy to know that there is a purpose behind each of the constant croaks and calls that you hear.

Male frogs generally call to attract females of the same species for reproductive purposes during the mating season. Frogs may also make distress, territorial, and release calls. Each frog species has a unique call to attract partners of the same species.

In this article, you will learn more about why frogs call and I’ll include some interesting frog-call facts you may not know about.

The Meaning of Frog Calls

Us humans, we have different sounds and tones to express emotions and feelings. Frogs are much the same in some ways.  

While a frog cannot verbalize their feelings with words, they can use various tones of calls. When you hear frogs calling, they are likely calling to attract mates. 

But frogs also make release, distress, or territorial calls.

Mating Calls

Male frogs make mating calls during the mating season which typically takes place during the spring or mid-summer in the northern hemisphere, or during the monsoon or wet seasons. Each species has a unique call to attract females of the same species.

Sometimes these calls are also referred to as advertisement calls. This is because the frog is essentially advertising himself for the female frogs with the goal of attracting them to his location to reproduce.

 The sound of this call can be very high-pitched, or extremely deep and low. 

Frog Sounds: Spring Peeper (Call)

You have likely heard these sounds if you have spent any time around a fresh body of water where the vast majority of frog species like to live.

Although there may be various species in one body of water, female frogs will only mate with their own species.

Release Calls

Frogs may also make a call when they want to be released. 

This call is reserved for times when a frog is inappropriately grabbed, typically by another male in amplexus. 

Oftentimes, frogs cannot decipher females from males, and males may clasp onto other males, or females that have already reproduced.

In this case, the frog that is being clasped may make a short call to be released.

The release call is reserved for these stressful times and can be easily distinguished because of its volume and abrupt nature. 

Unlike mating calls, release calls can be made by both males and females.

Distress Calls

If a human is in distress, the cries you hear are much more distinct than a normal reaction to something harmless. Frogs have a reaction that is much the same.  

If a frog is in distress, it will emit a distinctive call to alert other frogs of potential danger. 

Frogs may also make this call if they are picked up by a predator, including humans.

I actually experienced hearing a frog release call when I saved a couple of toads from crossing a road.

Photo I took of an American Toad calling during mating season

The toads were in amplexus and were in the middle of a road where a car was oncoming. 

I picked them up and brought them to the pond where they were headed to get them off the road and to safety.

While I was carrying them to the pond, they were making very cute short release calls. 

Of course, they were afraid and did not want to be carried around, but made it safely to their destination to lay eggs.

A release call is usually characterized by being very loud and abrupt. 

Besides warning other frogs, it is also effective at surprising predators and can result in the release of the frog. 

Frogs will not usually make this sound unless a predator has picked them up.  

Both males and females may make distress calls.

Territorial Calls

Another reason frogs make calls is to mark and protect their territory. 

This territorial behavior is characterized by a specific call that the frogs make.  

They will make this call to alert others that they are intruding on their space.

Much like a dog may bark to protect their territory, and as a warning, the frog call does the same thing.

If an unfamiliar frog manages to get into the territory that is being protected, some frogs will become aggressive toward the intruder and may even try to cause injury. 

Some frogs use their bodies to defend their territories like Red-Eyed Tree frogs that use a little dance with a bum shake.

Frogs may make a few other calls which I cover in this post on our blog

How Do Frogs Call?

Now that you know why a frog makes so many distinct sounds, you may be wondering how such a small animal can produce a sound of such a high volume.  

Frogs are equipped with vocal sacs that allow them to produce such a range of sounds. 

Some frogs have a vocal sac placed right below their chin, while others have two vocal sacs on the sides of their mouth.

Frogs can expand the sac by filling it with air, and forcing the air out with their lungs to make their calls.

Photo I took of a Spring Peeper calling during mating season

Depending on the nature or purpose of the call, the speed at which the air is released will differ. 

Because frogs have calls that send various messages, you will likely hear the calls throughout the summer, spring, monsoon, or wet seasons.

However, it is common to hear the calls more frequently when the frogs are in mating, typically between March and June in the Northern Hemisphere (CTNF).

How Loud do Frogs Call?

The environment in which the frog is living and breeding can determine the volume they use.  

When humans are in a quiet environment, their voices are much lower than they would be in a loud environment.  

When frogs live in a busy, loud, urban location, they are likely to be much louder with their calls.  

The increase in volume is because they are competing with the surrounding noise. 

You would likely find the opposite of frogs that live in a location that is calm and quiet. While they would likely still be loud, they would not be as loud as the frogs competing with environmental noises, noise pollution, and other species.

Some frogs such as Spring Peeper have calls that can be heard up to 1 mile away!

Annoyed by loud frog calls? I cover some things you can do about loud frog calls on our blog.

Identify Frog Species by Their Call

When you speak with someone, you can likely determine where they are from based on their accent or language.

Frog calls act much the same way. 

You can determine the species of a frog based on the call they make.

While you need to be well versed in frog calls, you can do this with practice. 

We have an awesome list of frog profiles that include their calls!

Once you learn more about the different calls, sounds, or “languages” of frogs, it will be easier to identify them.  

One of the best times to try your hand at identifying frogs is during their mating season. 

Learn More About Frog Calls

Frogs are magnificent creatures that have a quite complex way of communicating with one another. 

Frog Sounds: Why They Make Them (Examples)

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Although they cannot use words to express their emotions, they can use varying pitches and calls to communicate (CTNF). 

The next time you hear frogs “talking,” instead of getting frustrated, stop and listen. 

After reading this article (and some of the following ones on our blog) you may be able to better understand what is happening in their world 🙂

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.