Red-eyed tree frog

Update of post from December 7, 2013



Red-eyed tree frogs are probably the most recognizable frogs in the world, as well as some of the most famous and most colorful. These small amphibians live mostly in Central America.

True to their name, they have bright red eyes, which bulge out of their head, making them even more distinct. They also have a bright green body with a white belly. The upper parts of their legs are marked with blue, and their sides are blue with yellow stripes. Even their toes are bright orange! Almost everything about this frog is bright.

Not all red-eyed tree frogs are this green. Some of them have a bluish or yellowish tint to them. The young are actually brown when they are first born, but their coloring later changes to that shown above.


These frogs are probably a little smaller than you would think. As adults, the males are between 2 and 2.5 inches (5.1-6.4 cm) long, and the larger females are 2.5 to 3 inches (6.4-7.6 cm). Even more surprising than their size is the red-eyed tree frogs’ weight. They are usually between 0.2 and 0.5 ounces (6-15 grams). In other words, these frogs have a weight somewhere between that of a piece of paper and that of a CD!

Diet and hunting

Red-eyed tree frogs are mostly insectivores, eating a wide variety of insects including crickets, moths, and flies. Pretty much any animal small enough to fit into these frogs’ mouths can become their prey. They will even sometimes eat other, smaller frogs!

These frogs are nocturnal hunters. This helps them because most of their predators are sleeping at night, making it safer for them to hunt. A lot of insects are nocturnal as well, so the frogs will be in a place crawling with their next meal.

Red-eyed tree frogs are ambush predators. They sit in one place and wait for an insect to walk past them, and they then gobble it up. With so many insects in the rainforest, these frogs probably do not have to wait long for their prey to come by.

Habitat and range

These frogs live mostly in Central America. Their range does extend as far north as the southern tip of Mexico, and they also inhabit a tiny portion of Colombia, South America, but they vast majority of their range is in Central America, where they inhabit most areas.

The habitat these frogs enjoy most is low rainforests. The rainforests give them plenty of food, as well as many places to hide from predators. They like living at a lower altitude near hills, as these areas are usually near rivers which provide a water source.

Status, threats, and protection

The IUCN Redlist classifies the red-eyed tree frog as Least Concern. The rainforest is filled with animals that may prey on this frog. These include bats, owls, snakes, spiders, toucans, and small crocodiles. Since these frogs sometimes eat smaller frogs, it is possible that larger frogs have the red-eyed tree frog on their menu.

Because these frogs face a multitude of predators daily, they need ways to defend themselves to stay alive. During the day, which is when most of their predators are active, these frogs sleep on leaves with their eyes closed and legs tucked against their sides. This hides the bright red in their eyes as well as the orange, yellow, and blue on their bodies. The also change their bright green color a bit so it is a pale green, which matches the leaves better. This coloring is shown below.

Surprisingly, the bright colors of the red-eyed tree frog actually help it against predators. When they are disturbed, they pop our their eyes, and quickly uncover their bright coloring. This stuns the potential predator just long enough for the frog to jump safely away. The bright flash of color is then gone, leaving a ghost of color still in the predator’s eyes, making it harder for it to find the frog again.

There are also several non-natural threats the red-eyed tree frog faces. These are mainly habitat loss (mostly in the form of deforestation) and pollution.

Reproduction and young

Red-eyed tree frog mating, which occurs during the rainy season, starts with the males croaking to attract the females. While they are calling, they will jump from leaf to leaf establishing territory. When a male succeeds in attracting a female, the female will lay eggs, which the male then fertilizes.

Unlike most frogs, red-eyed tree frogs do not lay their eggs in water. Instead, they lay the eggs on leaves above water. When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles will fall down into the water below. They lay between 20 and 60 eggs each time they mate.

The young frogs have an interesting way of protecting themselves. There are two predators they face when they are still inside their eggs. One of these is wasps, which only attack a single egg, and the other is snakes, which will often devour the whole clutch. When the embryos feel vibrations from these predators, they react in a way that helps them stay alive.

They can somehow tell whether the vibration they feel is from a wasp or from a snake. If it is from a wasp, then the few eggs nearest the vibration hatch early, and will fall down to the safety of the water below. If the vibration is from a snake, then the whole clutch will hatch and escape.

Normally, the eggs will hatch about two weeks after being laid. After spending about a month in the water, the tadpoles have fully metamorphosed into frogs. Red-eyed tree frogs live about 5 years in the wild, and 4 in captivity.

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!


Photo credits:

  • Red-eyed tree frog – Public Domain
  • Camouflaged red-eyed tree frog – Public Domain
  • Red-eyed tree frog range – Wikipedia User: Darekk2
  • Mystery animal – Jonathan Zander

One Response

  1. Grandpa
    Grandpa at |

    Gharial is next weeks thing.

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