How Long Tree Frogs Actually Live (And Where To Find Them)

Tree frog, flying frog sitting on branch

Tree frogs are a large family of frogs that can be found in tropical forests, near ponds, in backyards, and even in pet terrariums. Because tree frogs are such a large and diverse group of amphibians, there is a lot of variability in their lifespans and habitats

On average, tree frogs live between 3-6 years. Small-sized tree frogs tend to have shorter lifespans, with some only living for a few months long enough to ensure the survival of a new generation. Larger species are popular beginner pets and have lived up to 21 years in captivity with proper care.

Read on to find out more about how long tree frogs live and where you can find them in the wild. You’ll learn more about what tree frogs are, how they fit into the ecosystem and their role with people!

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How Long Can Tree Frogs Live?

Okay, on to our initial question! From finding food and water, to escaping predators and staying healthy in a stable habitat, tree frogs live a life wrought with uncertainty. Assuming tree frogs survive, how long can they live?

Tree Frog’s Lifespan Varies Between Species 

Since there are so many different kinds of tree frogs, it is no surprise that there is a lot of variability in their lifespans. There is still a lot we don’t know about their lives, but here’s what we do know.

Many species of tree frogs are long-lived. White’s Tree Frog and the Australian Tree Frog live to be 15 years old in captivity, with one White’s Tree Frog living to be 21 years old! The iconic Red-Eyed Tree Frog also has a long life span, living up to 20 years in captivity, but rarely survives past 5 years in the wild.

In the wild, their natural lifespan is much shorter. Even long-lived tree frogs usually only survive 3-6 years in the wild. White’s Tree Frog lives for about 7 years in the wild, while the Cuban Tree Frog can live up to 10 years in the wild. 

Bigger Tree Frogs Usually Live Longer

Smaller tree frogs tend to have shorter lifespans, while larger frogs live longer. There are a few reasons this is thought to be true.

  • Larger tree frogs can maintain a stable body temperature easier.
  • Larger tree frogs are more resistant to starvation and eat less frequently.

We already looked at some of the larger tree frogs, like White’s Tree Frog which measures 11.5 inches fully grown. So let’s take a look at the smaller species of tree frogs.

Chorus frogs are about the size of a grape. Their chorus can be heard over half a mile on way on warm nights throughout most of the United States. They usually only live for about a year in the wild, but can live up to 5 years in the wild, and 10 years in captivity.

Spring Peepers are small tree frogs, about the length of a paperclip. Their calls are commonly heard in the United States, and they are known to sound like young chickens. They live for a maximum of 4 years. 

Blanchard’s Cricket Frogs are part of the tree frog family. They are about 1.5 inches long when mature, about the size of a walnut. Most individuals only live about 4 months, with an average of about a year. In captivity, they can live up to 7 years old.

Tree Frogs In Colder Climates Usually Live Longer

Unfortunately, the bright-colored tree frogs of the tropics, where it’s warm all year, just don’t live as long as their cousins in colder places of the world. This phenomenon seems to be due to cold temperatures slowing metabolic rate and growth. Tropical tree frogs burn out faster.

Tree frogs that live in colder climates also have a special adaption to handle freezing weather. They go into a state of inactivity almost like hibernation, but in the case of tree frogs, as well as other amphibians and reptiles, it is called brumation. This reduces their metabolic rate and allows them to go dormant during cold months. 

During brumation they will be unable to escape predators, so tree frogs need a place to hide. Most tree frogs bury themselves into the soil or leaf litter, while others find crevices in trees and logs. Some tree frogs, like Spring Peepers, are known for being able to survive being frozen!

How Are Tree Frog Lifespans Measured?

Not all 800 species of tree frogs have been studied. The tree frogs that we do have lifespan data on come from tagging or the pet trade. 

Tagging is a way scientists can identify different individuals. Tagging can include making small incisions on their toes, with each individual having a unique pattern. However, as toes are limited, this limits the number of individuals that can be tagged. Tagging can also include small tags that are clipped to the back of the jaws, similar to how fish are tagged. 

Tree frogs that are tagged in the wild can be recaught multiple times, giving scientists an estimate of their average lifespan. This method requires scientists to be able to refind individuals, which can be very difficult in the wild.

The other way we learn about their lifespans is from pet owners. Tree frogs are popular as beginner pets and for frog enthusiasts.  As pets, they have full access to food and water, free from predators, disease, and other environmental hardships.

Data from pet owners give scientists an idea of their maximum lifespan but doesn’t say much for their normal lifespan in their natural state.

8 Interesting Facts About Tree Frogs

The name “tree frog” is a bit misleading, as they don’t all live in trees, some making their homes near water or moist ground cover instead! To further complicate matters, not all species of frogs that live in trees are called tree frogs.

The spring chorus of tree frogs is a welcome sign of warmer weather after a long winter. Tree frogs are admired all over the world, even winning the spot for the 2021 mascot of Cadbury. Easter Tree Frog has a nice ring to it, right?

They might not all live in trees, but there is one characteristic that all members in this group share and it’s on their feet. In addition to toe pads to help them climb trees, the terminal phalanx (which is just the scientific name for the last bone in their toes) is shaped like a claw.

Tree Frogs Are Not Toads

Both toads and frogs are amphibians. “Frog” is a catch-all term that also applies to toads. However, toads are a very different family within the frogs, so frogs are not toads. 

There are a few differences between the two to help tell them apart.

While frogs have long hindlegs capable of propelling them long distances, toads have shorter legs that are better equipped for walking and short-distance hopping. When approached, frogs are quick to hop away. On the other hand, toads tend to sit still, hoping they won’t be noticed.

You can also tell frogs and toads apart by their different eyes. Toads usually have big eyes that stick out. Frog eyes appear smaller and bulge out less. But this characteristic can be pretty tricky unless you have experience comparing frog eyes.

The best characteristic to tell them apart is their skin. Frogs have smooth, even slimy skin since they spend most of their time near water. Toads have warty, dry skin since they spend more time away from water sources.

Tree Frogs Are Small 

While other families of frogs have members that can grow to be over a foot long, tree frogs are all small in size. They range from less than an inch (2.5 cm) to 5.5 inches (14 cm). That’s about from the size of a grape to the size of a Bic pen. 

Their small size is helpful. Tree frogs that do live in trees are usually on the smaller side as it helps them to hold onto small branches and leaves without breaking them and falling to the ground where predators could find them.  

Tree Frogs Come In Many Colors

Small orange frog sitting on a leaf

In the United States, there are about 30 different kinds of tree frogs. They can be green, gray, or brown. Some can even color change, such as the squirrel tree frog (Hyla squirella), which quickly changes from green to brown in response to its environment or activities!

Frogs love humidity, so in the tropical forests of Central and South America, more than 300 species of tree frogs can be found. Many tropical tree frogs are like colorful jewels. Some species have bright colors, showing swatches of blues, reds, oranges, and pinks. 

Tree Frogs Eat Insects 

Tree frogs are all insectivores, meaning they eat insects. They are also opportunistic sit-and-wait predators. Active hunting requires a lot of energy and puts them at risk of running into a predator. Therefore, most tree frogs and frogs, in general, tend not to go out looking for food, unless extreme hunger compels them. 

Instead, tree frogs are passive hunters that wait for the meal to come to them. Their long, sticky tongues are folded up at rest. Once prey is spotted they quickly unfurl their tongue with accuracy. If a prey item is just out of reach the tree frog uses its long legs to jump closer to its prey.

Tree frogs feast on small invertebrates that most people consider to be pests such as crickets, flies, ants, and even mosquitos! A tree frog can consume thousands of mosquitoes per year. Thanks, tree frogs!

Another interesting thing about tree frogs, and other frogs, is that they blink every time they swallow their food. This is because frogs do not chew their food and swallow prey whole. They use their eyes to help push their food down.

Tree Frogs Start Out As Tadpoles

Treefrog tadpole changing into a frog

While some frogs hatch out of eggs looking like miniature adults, other frogs have a larval life stage. Tadpoles are baby frogs that have not yet undergone a metamorphosis into adults.

Tadpoles have tails and lack legs, so they usually spend this part of their life cycle in water. They are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. 

Younger tadpoles tend to eat small aquatic plants and algae. Older tadpoles become voracious feeders as froglets begin the transition into froghood. They’ll eat anything that fits inside their mouths, including small fish. 

Tree Frogs Are Hard For Predators To Catch

On the other side of the food chain, tree frogs and tadpoles are important sources of food for other animals. Just about any carnivorous mammal, bird, fish, or reptile will make a meal out of tree frogs. That is, assuming they can find and catch these elusive amphibians.

Most tree frogs have excellent camouflage to live under the radar of predators. Their greens, greys, and browns allow them to blend into the trees, leaves, or ground they live on. Even colorful tropical tree frogs have adapted behaviors to help them blend into their surroundings.

The Red-Eyed Tree Frog is a popular and well-known representative of tree frogs. It is named for its vivid red eyes and identified by its green body, bright orange feet, and bright blue and yellow stripes on its sides.

When threatened by a predator the Red-Eyed Tree Frog jumps away, tucks in its legs to hide its bright feet and sides, and closes its eyes. This allows it to blend in more naturally to its environment.

Besides camouflage, tree frogs have a variety of other tricks they can use to escape.

Other tree frogs that are threatened by predators use their bright colors to their advantage. Instead of hiding their colors, they show them off. In doing so, bright-colored tree frogs hope to confuse predators and possibly mimic some of their other brightly colored dart frog cousins, which predators quickly recognize as being toxic and inedible.

One tree frog has an interesting and unique way to escape predators. The Gliding Tree Frog lives in the canopies of trees. Can you guess its superpower? 

If you said the power to glide, you’d be correct! 

This rare tree frog jumps from the treetops and freefalls. By spreading out its legs and webbed toes to create little parachutes, it can glide to the forest floor to escape predators, such as snakes and birds of prey.

Tree Frogs Don’t Drink Water Like Humans Do

Or breathe! Tree frogs have pretty amazing skin, and I don’t mean just a dewy complexion. Frogs can breathe and drink through their skin! This is why tree frogs are found most commonly in humid, tropical locations and right after rainfall. 

Tree Frogs Are At Risk Of Extinction 

All amphibians, including tree frogs, are among the quickest declining animal groups.

The ability to breathe through their skin makes them particularly vulnerable to environmental changes, such as air quality. This also makes them important indicator species for healthy environments, as you won’t find them in polluted areas. Healthy populations of tree frogs indicate a healthy local ecosystem.

A fast-spreading fungus that attacks tree frogs has also been worrying scientists because once individuals become infected, it is always lethal. Tree frogs also face risks from deforestation and habitat loss.

Do Tree Frogs Make Good Pets?

Yes! Tree frogs are a great beginner pet for a few reasons.

  • Low Maintenance – Unlike dogs and cats that need frequent attention and care throughout the day, tree frogs are pretty sedentary and require very little energy to care for.
  • Terrariums Can Be Beautiful – Terrariums are filled with small branches, vibrant leaves, and soft mosses. For tree frogs, terrariums are usually taller than they are longer. Designing your terrarium to mimic tree frogs’ natural habitats is an art. And the results can be as beautiful as the tree frog. There are many options available like this Reptile Glass Terrarium.
  • Tree Frogs Are Docile – Though tree frogs do have small teeth, they have friendly reputations. Bites from tree frogs are rare and do little damage. 

Can Tree Frogs Be Handled?

Green tree frog sitting on human fingers

Some tree frogs can be safely handled when caution is used. White’s Tree Frog makes a popular pet because it tends to be pretty tame and doesn’t jump around as much as other frogs. 

However, tree frogs don’t make good cuddle buddies. Owners should wash their hands before and after handling them, as frogs can cause salmonella poisoning.

Where Are Tree Frogs Usually Found?

Tree frogs are found in every corner of the planet. One species has even adapted the ability to survive the harsh deserts of Australia! So, let’s get outside and see if we can find some tree frogs.

As a quick disclaimer, we don’t recommend handling wild tree frogs. Instead, you should contact a professional if you happen to come across one.

Tree Frogs Are Often Found Near Water

Tree frogs need still, freshwater to survive and lay eggs, and their small size prevents them from traveling far from water. Look around ponds, marshes, wetlands, and even temporary puddles near trees after heavy rainfall.

Tree Frogs Have A Unique Call

Tree frogs don’t ribbit. Each species of tree frog makes its unique call to make sure they’re attracting the correct mates. They are loudest during the breeding season, which is usually in spring, but can be all year round in the tropics.

Listen for a chorus of peeps, clicks, chirps, and croaks. Listen closely and walk closer to see if you can find the source of the sound.

Tree Frogs Often Live On Or Near Trees

Green tree frog in a tree

Some tree frogs may stop calling when you approach, so that’s when you’ll need to use your eyes. 

Remember that tree frogs can be quite small, under one inch, and if you’re in the United States, they can be very cryptic. Look closely at small bumps on trees and leaves. Bases of trees and underleaf litter can also be sources of tree frogs.

Check out this article 9 Different Animals and Insects That Live In Trees to learn more about other animals that call trees home!

Tree Frogs Can Be Found Most Often At Night Or Early In the Morning

Tree frogs tend to be less active in the heat of the day. You’ll start to hear their calls around sunset, which can continue into the morning. Don’t forget the flashlight!

Let’s Recap!

That’s all folks! Let’s review to see what we’ve learned about tree frogs.

Tree frogs are small insect-eating frogs that are popular beginner pets. Tree frogs breathe and drink through their skin, which comes in a variety of colors, from greens and grays to bright blues and pinks. Unfortunately, their numbers are rapidly declining. 

Tree frogs are a huge group of many different species that can live from a few months to two decades, depending on different factors such as size, climate, and whether they live in the wild or as pets.

White’s Gray Tree Frog lives the longest, up to 21 years in captivity or 7 years in the wild, while Blanchard’s Cricket Frog has the shortest life span, living from a few months in the wild or 7 years in captivity.

Tree frogs are found all over the world, near clean, still freshwater, and often, but not always, found on trees. With tree frogs being so widespread, you can likely find tree frogs locally by listening closely and looking for small bumps on and around trees.

Now, go forth, and check your local park (or pet store, if you’re looking for a new family member!) and find some tree frogs!

References

Gaston, K. J., Chown, S. L., & Evans, K. L. (2008). Ecogeographical rules: elements of a synthesis. Journal of Biogeography35(3), 483-500.

Stark, G., & Meiri, S. (2018). Cold and dark captivity: drivers of amphibian longevity. Global Ecology and Biogeography27(11), 1384-1397.

Hilje, B., Chaves, G., Klank, J., Timmerman, F., Feltham, J., Gillingwater, S., … & Rojas, E. (2020). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Tirimbina Biological Reserve: a baseline for conservation, research and environmental education in a lowland tropical wet forest in Costa Rica. Check List16, 1633.

National Wildlife Federation, & Roger Tory Peterson Institute. (2003). A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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