For many people in North America, the first calls of the peeper mark the return of the spring.
The tiny spring peeper is tan or light brown in colour with a darker X-shaped marking on the back. The largest peeper on record was a mere 3.7 centimetres long. The breeding call of this species is a single, loud, high-pitched peep repeated over and over. A full chorus can be deafening up close and can be heard over a kilometre away. In large choruses, peepers will also trill, advising other males to keep their distance. Listen to the call of spring peeper (courtesy of Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme).
The spring peeper is the only frog in Ontario with a dark X-shaped marking on the back. Other treefrogs that share the range of this species are the boreal chorus frog, western chorus frog, gray treefrog and Blanchard’s cricket frog. The chorus frogs have three dark stripes down the back, and the gray treefrog is green, brown or grey and larger than the spring peeper. Blanchard’s cricket frog, which is limited to extreme southern Ontario, has a dark triangle between the eyes and less distinct markings on the back.
Spring peepers are found in a wide range of habitats and seem to breed almost anywhere there is shallow water, but mostly in temporary woodland ponds. In the summer, these frogs move to forested and shrubby upland habitats and spend most of their time in the leaf litter. They are rarely found more than a metre above ground. Spring peepers hibernate under logs and loose bark. This species is unlikely to be found in urban areas.
View an interactive map of the known ranges of spring peepers in Ontario.
The blood chemistry of the spring peeper allows it to withstand temperatures up to a few degrees below zero without freezing to death, which explains why this species is one of the earliest frogs to begin calling in the spring. The female lays between 800 and 1,000 eggs, singly or in small groups. The tadpoles hatch in one to two weeks and complete their metamorphosis within three months.
Spring peepers are mostly active at dusk and at night. Although these frogs are widespread and abundant, great patience and a good eye are needed to actually see one. They are sometimes heard calling again in the fall but do not breed then.
Other names: Hyla crucifer
Threats and Trends
The destruction or draining of wetlands reduces the availability of habitat for the spring peeper, and it does not thrive in areas characterized by urbanization and agricultural development. The overall trend in this species’ provincial population is not known, but it is believed to be stable or slightly declining.
Current Status and Protection
Neither the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario nor the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has assessed the status of the spring peeper. The species has no protection under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the global status of the spring peeper as Least Concern. The species’ status was confirmed in 2010.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.