7 Reasons Why Frogs Scream

The first time I heard a frog scream I thought it was kind of funny to be quite honest. Frogs are such small creatures for the most part, and the one I saw screaming sounded more like a dog toy. Frogs have many predators so they have to defend themselves, and one way they do so is by screaming – even if it sometimes sounds a bit ridiculous.

Generally, frogs scream to startle or scare predators. Frogs may also release distress, warning, mating, territorial and rain calls that could sound like screaming. Screaming generally is one of the many defence mechanisms a frog may use to protect itself.

There are so many fascinating things to learn about frog sounds, screams, and calls. Let’s jump into some common reasons why you may hear frogs screaming.

1. Frogs Mainly Scream To Fend Off Predators

Frogs may scream if they feel threatened, afraid, or in danger in order fend off a potential threat. Certain frog species may also scream to signal that they have seen a predator that could be dangerous to other frogs in the area.

I was taking a walk in a field when I first heard a frog scream. I had not seen it at my feet as it sat up and started making high pitched, loud squeaking sounds. To be honest it sounded pretty ridiculous but it definitely got my attention!

The frog thought I was a predator and puffed up its body and screamed to look larger and more intimidating. I respectfully walked around the frog and let it be. This is the best reaction a human can have because a frog in this state is probably very stressed.

Most frogs play dead or hide to avoid predators. But for some, facing their fear head on and screaming is a preferred defence mechanism.

Frog screams can have different different reasons behind them, but their intended impact is generally the same. Frogs use screams to try startle predators into leaving them alone, for at least enough time for the frog to escape.

But frogs may also make other calls that could sound like screams to humans. Let’s have a look at some other common calls and screams frogs make, and their meanings.

2. Frog Screams May Be Mating Calls

Frog mating calls are sometimes confused with screams.

Mating calls are very common during the mating season which takes place during Spring, early Summer in the Northern Hemisphere and can last a few weeks to a few months, from early evening to early morning.

In the Rainforest, frogs may call and mate all year round due to favourable climate conditions. In other places, frogs may prefer to mate during Monsoon season or when in rains.

Male frogs call during the mating season to attract female frogs of the same species in order to reproduce. Each frog among more than 7,400 known frog species has a unique call to attract mates.

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For a creature so small, frogs can make surprisingly loud noises. Some frogs can be heard up to a mile from their location.

Only male frogs have vocal sacs to make mating calls. Each frog species has their own unique mating calls to attract female frogs of the same species.

Listen to the Spring Peeper’s mating call below:

Listen to more sounds frogs make on our blog

3. Frog Scream To Defend Their Territory

Territorial calls are made by male frogs to ward off any other frogs from intruding on their patch of land. The cry is to create a “stay away” declaration and is often comes out as low grunts or high pitched screeches.

Some frog species are territorial and a few of them use screams to defend their territory. This usually happens when people, a predator, or another frog gets too close.

Making a defence call requires the frog to be pretty confident it can scream its way out of the situation.

This call scream is often performed as an exclamation in the form of a short grunts or squawks. The frog may also puff up their body to look larger and more aggressive.

American Bullfrogs have few predators and can be very territorial, making deep loud bellow sounds to defend their patch of land.

Even small frogs may ferociously defend their territory like the small Golden Poison Dart Frog. These frogs also have very few predators since they are highly toxic and can easily kill their prey. However, they are extremely territorial and so their most common enemy is their own species. These frogs are known to defend their territory to their own demise.

Other frog species prefer to dance and wiggle their bum to defend their territory. No joke this is what Red-Eyed Tree Frogs do when other males get to close to their territory or a female they would like to reproduce with.

4. Frog Screams May Be Distress Calls

Distress calls are specific screams frogs use to distract or startle predators after they attacked.

These are easy to identify because by that time, the predator has caught the frog and it needs to resort to a more aggressive form of defence.

Imagine you, a predator, have captured your prey and are carrying it home in your mouth. All of a sudden, your lunch starts screaming. There’s a good chance that this abrupt, loud noise would cause you to drop whatever it is in your mouth, which is the frog’s goal.

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If the predator has the frog in its mouth, making a high shrill scream may startle the predator and make it release the frog.

This tactic may be accompanied by urinating, leaving a bad taste in the predators mouth. This can cause the predator to release the frog after snatching it up, allowing the frog to escape.

5. Frog Screams May Be Release Calls

Release calls are often made when a male frog tries to hop on another female in amplexus (reproductive position), but the female does not want to reproduce with him.

When male frogs are eager to find a mate, they may grab onto the first frog they see passing them, which can be another female frog that already laid her eggs, another male frog, or a different species entirely.

Frogs may scream a release call if they already laid her eggs, are a male, another species, or do not want to reproduce with that partner.

Photo of a female frog screaming a release call

The frog that was grabbed can make a release call that may sound like a single or a series of short screams to let the male know he is wasting time and to move on.

When American Green Tree Frogs make this call, it sounds like a chicken making clicking sounds.

6. Frog Scream to Warn Other Frogs

Certain species of frogs may also scream to signal that they’ve seen or heard something that could be dangerous to the other frogs in the area.

I actually noticed that choruses of frogs fall quiet when you approach their location.

I was looking for the very elusive Spring Peeper and when I got close to the pond, all the frogs fell silent This was a way for them to warn each other a potential predator was in the area.

Frogs may use warning calls or silence to tell each other to be careful and to protect their species. Some frogs may even use ultrasounds that other animals cannot hear (CTNF).

7. Frog Screams May Be Rain Calls

Some things that make frogs very happy include rain, humidity, lots of food and few predators.

Imagine a rainy Summer day, it’s warm, humid, worms, bugs and mosquitoes are active. There are no birds flying around because it’s just too wet.

The racoons, skunks and stray cats are taking shelter – and the frogs are singing in the rain!

Under these highly favourable conditions that make frogs happy, frogs may make rain calls.

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Rainy Summer days can be joyous moments for frogs that may croak to attract mates and reproduce, or just because this is their ideal time to shine.

Frogs may make “Rain Calls” before it rains, or to try to make it rain, and they may make sounds of joy if their idyllic surroundings becomes reality.

There is plenty of food, few predators on the prowl, and an ideal environment for them to be happy.

Other Self-Defence Mechanisms Used by Frogs

As a general rule, frogs defend themselves by puffing up their bodies, surprising their predators, playing dead, biting, screaming, urinating, using color, camouflage, and their well-built anatomy to jump, leap or swim away from their enemies.

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Watch the video above to learn other ways that frogs defend themselves. Frogs can use their vocal sacks to scream at predators such as monkeys, fish, and birds. Frogs can puff up their vocal sacks to make themselves larger and more intimidating.

Common Questions About Frog Screams

Why Do Toads Call? Generally, toads call to attract mates to reproduce during mating season. Toads may also call to startle or scare predators. Toads may also release distress, warning, territorial or rain calls.

Why Do Frogs Call? Generally, frogs call to attract mates to reproduce during mating season. Frogs may also call to startle or scare predators. Toads may also release distress, warning, territorial or rain calls.

Why Are Frogs So Loud? Frogs are small but can be very loud, generally to get their point across, may that be to scare off a predator, defend their territory or get rid of an unwanted mate. Frogs are especially loud during mating season which as they try to attract mates, and can sometimes be heard up to 1km away.

Why do Frogs Scream When Touched? Frogs may scream when they are touched because they are afraid, feel like they are in danger and want to be left alone. Screaming is a defence mechanism used by frogs to scare off predators. If you touch a frog and it screams, you should leave it alone.

What do Frog Calls Mean? Generally frog calls can have a variety of meanings, from defence calls to defend themselves, to mating calls to attract mates, territorial calls to defend their territory, waring calls to inform their species a predator is in the area, and distress calls when they are being attacked.

How do Frogs Make Calls? Frogs make calls by filling up their vocal sacs with air and releasing sounds that are unique to their species. Only male frogs have vocal sacs and can make such calls or sounds.

About The Author
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.