It can be easy to confuse the various frogs that appear in your backyard. Some have distinctive features that aid identification, while others look quite similar at first glance.
As amphibians, frogs are mainly aquatic and spend much of their time in and around water. However, there are subtle habitat differences among species.
Toads, the subject of a separate column, are more terrestrial than other frogs. Found anywhere with adequate moisture and cover, toads haunt your garden, happily eating slugs and insects.
Green frogs look much like bullfrogs but are smaller and sport a ridge that begins behind the eye. They are green-brown overall and favor swamps, small streams, and temporary pools.
Green frogs find new sources of water, including backyard ponds. They consume slugs, snails, insects, and other frogs. In contrast, bullfrogs live in reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and the slow-moving sections of streams. Voracious predators, bullfrogs eat snakes, smaller frogs, and even small birds.
Pickerel frogs are brown with squarish spots in parallel rows. They bear a vague resemblance to northern leopard frogs, but the latter is greener in color and has rounder spots.
Pickerel frogs frequent clear, cool water such as streams, springs, and bogs. In the summer months, pickerel frogs can also be found in fields and grassy meadows. The frogs’ diet consists of insects, spiders, and other small critters.
Wood frogs can be confused with spring peepers. However, spring peepers have an X on the back, which wood frogs lack. Furthermore, wood frogs have a distinctive-looking dark mask across the eyes.
As their name suggests, wood frogs inhabit woodland ponds and streams, as well as thickets. They lay their eggs in vernal pools, the critical and ephemeral water bodies that also support spotted salamanders.
Wood frogs hibernate under logs, stumps, and leaves each winter, literally thawing out in the spring. Ground hunters, wood frogs eat worms, slugs, snails, and arachnids.
Gray treefrogs camouflage themselves and can be either gray or green, depending on location.
Arboreal and nocturnal, gray treefrogs are found in forested areas near water. Like other Maine frogs, gray treefrogs eat insects. They come down to breed in late spring.
Mink frogs, residents of northern Maine, are green with darker smears of color. They inhabit colder lakes and ponds. According to my field guide, they would be nowhere near Lincoln County. But you might run across one elsewhere.
All frogs, regardless of species, rely on water to survive and reproduce. Ponds, streams, and constructed pools provide frogs with food as well as sources of cover. If you want to attract amphibians to your backyard, considering adding a water feature. You will be rewarded not just with frogs, but also salamanders.