Not All Frogs Go “Ribbit”

Walking around Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, you might hear a loud bellowing sound, like a cow. If the sound doesn’t seem to originate in the nearby Farm-in-the-Zoo Presented by John Deere, you may just be listening to the call of a bullfrog.

After all, bullfrogs got their names for sounding like cattle. (Although some people think the frogs’ calls sound more like they’re saying “jug-o-rum.”) One thing is certain: they don’t go “ribbit!”

A male bullfrog will produce these noisy, cow-like sounds to attract a female to his territory. Sometimes it seems the males pick territories under the boardwalk itself, which can be unnerving when I’m caught off guard by a loud, reverberating sound somewhere beneath my feet.

Bullfrogs are the biggest frogs in North America and can grow more than 8 inches long. They’re carnivorous, and they’re not picky eaters: a bullfrog will eat anything it can catch and fit into its mouth. They’ll even eat small birds if they can capture them! They also enjoy insects, small mammals and fish.

I often hear the bullfrogs at Nature Boardwalk but rarely see them. If I do manage to find one, I may only spot a bit of a frog leg and a splash of water as it makes a quick getaway into the pond. When looking for bullfrogs, I recommend looking around the edges of the pond, often in areas with dense vegetation or reeds. Try not to make much noise—all it takes is one hop and they’re out of sight!

Vicky Hunt

Comments

Good stuff Vicky. Do you know, is there a "best" time to try and find one lying around? I imagine midday they are long out of sight from the sun, but maybe morning or dusk, or both, they are more likely to be seen?

Wow, they have been seen eating birds and mammals. Their stomachs must have super digestive enzymes. Very interesting.

Vicky responds, "Bullfrogs are nocturnal, meaning that they are most active at night. I usually see or hear them in the mornings, but I’d guess that dusk would probably be an equally good time. Good luck finding one!"

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