Here’s how you can identify the frogs in your own backyard – and why it’s so valuable to know where they live.
While being able to identify the chocolate variety on a supermarket shelf certainly has its perks, knowing which species of frog is croaking in your backyard can be beneficial too.
The presence of frogs is a good indication of a healthy environment. They’re super sensitive to pollution and habitat degradation, which is why it’s so important to monitor where they live, as it paints a bigger picture about the natural world around them.
If they’re hanging out in your backyard, you should feel happy about the condition of your surrounds. So listen out and see if you can spot any of these:
1. Brown toadlet (Pseudophryne bibronii)
Between February and August be sure to listen out for the call of the brown toadlet.
The lifecycle of this rare frog is a little different to other frogs, in terms of the way eggs are laid and hatched. Brown toadlets lay their eggs on damp leaves or grass, such as in a dry creek bed, or in a boggy area that’s likely to be flooded, rather than directly in the water.
Tadpoles hatch from the eggs before they reach the stage of growing legs, and then continue to grow – but only if there has been enough rain to flood the area and cover the egg in water. Until that point, the growth of this little tadpole basically goes on hold. If the area doesn’t get flooded, the egg will dry out and the tadpole will die.
It can take six months for a fully-fledged frog to emerge, in comparison to the common froglet, which takes about a month, or the banjo frog, which may take as long as 15 months to form.
2. Brown tree frog (Litoria ewingii)
If you hear something that sounds just like a cricket, it could actually be the croak of a brown tree frog. Keep your eyes peeled for a dark brown, grey or creamy-fawn critter with a brown stripe from its nose to the top of its shoulders.
This frog can be found in many places across South Australia, including Kangaroo Island, Adelaide and its surrounds, and the southern Flinders Ranges.
Having this frog in your garden can be great for your plants, as it can help control pest insects. But if you want to encourage it in, why not build a pond. You’ll also need to avoid spraying chemicals in your garden and control your pets – especially cats. In fact, keeping your cat indoors is the best option for all native animals and can be beneficial for your feline friend too.
3. Banjo frog (Limnodynastes dumerilii)
The banjo frog’s call is comparable to a banjo – but one that’s out of tune and is not particularly rhythmical.
This frog likes to live underground, but depending on the weather and your location it’s during winter, spring and early summer that they come out to find a mate and breed – so listen out for them.
A pair of banjo frogs can be responsible for almost 4000 eggs, with tadpoles hatching after a week or so.
In SA, banjo frogs can be found in the southern areas, in places like Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, the South East, Adelaide and the Mount Lofty Ranges, and the Murray Valley. They’re also found in Tasmania and the eastern states.
Fun fact: Limnodynastes – which is part of this species’ scientific name – is of Greek origin and means ‘lords of the marshes’.
4. Spotted marsh frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis)
Another ‘lord of the marsh’ is the spotted marsh frog, which can be grey, green or brown with spots.
During the day, these frogs generally like to hide in grass, reeds or similar, and they usually lay their eggs in a foam nest made by mixing air into the jelly as their eggs are laid.
They have a distinctive call, which has been likened to a toy machine gun – and it’s the male of the species that makes this noise, often while he’s floating in water.
Just like language can vary from one part of a country to another, spotted marsh frogs in different parts of the state have slightly different calls, depending on whether they’re from the north, south or west.
5. Burrowing frog (Neobatrachus pictus)
Keep your eyes out for the burrowing frog, with its striking looks and cat-like eyes. But first, familiarise yourself with how it looks and sounds.
These frogs live underground, only coming up to breed and find food, and are found in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges area, Eyre Peninsula, Flinders Ranges, Murray Valley and the South East.
This frog has what is known as a ‘spadefoot’, or a ‘metatarsal tubercle’, which helps it dig into the ground. You might imagine a frog burrows into the ground head-first, but this species actually goes bum-first, in a corkscrew-like motion.
During breeding season, the males get little spikes all over their body, which are probably used for fighting.
Think all frogs are good at jumping? The burrowing frog actually isn’t that great at it, so instead of hopping away in the face of danger, they’ve come up with other ways of getting out of sticky situations – including puffing themselves up to try to convince predators they are too big to fit in their mouths, or simply screaming!
Want to help collect data about frogs?
Whether you’re already in tune with your local frogs, or you’ve now got the confidence to investigate what’s bouncing around in your area, consider being a citizen scientist with FrogWatch SA.
Join other frog fanatics in recording frog calls, which will then be identified by experts and entered into a database that will help with important decisions about native animal populations.
It’s easy to help track frogs in your area – so what are you waiting for?
If weird and wonderful creatures are your thing, there’s so much more to learn in this handy Creature Features publication, produced by Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges’ Natural Resources Management Education team.
(All images courtesy of Steve Walker)
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