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Habitat Ecology Information

What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #31 Southern Brown Tree Frog

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#31 Southern Brown Tree Frog
(Litoria ewingi)

Found this little critter hiding under some plastic in the backyard that I was using to cover some sand. The moist conditions underneath the plastic were ideal for it as a hiding place. We have often heard these frogs calling at night with their creeeeee creee creee, which they may repeat several times with the first creeeee being the longest.

The Southern Brown Tree Frog is an agile hunter and will leap into the air to catch insects on the wing and can climb well using its large sticky pads on its toes. The fingers on the front lack webbing whilst those of the toes are half webbed.

This frogs colouring can vary depending on were it is found with those around the suburbs of Melbourne more than likely being from pale fawn through to light brown, with a wide brown band that starts between the eyes and runs down the back. It has another brown or black strip that runs from its snout to its shoulder through the eye. It also has another white stripe under each eye that terminates at the base of its arm. Their bellies are white or yellowish.

The males may be found calling away from water but generally they will call hidden amongst vegetation in and around water. During the recent rains of late February they have been calling at night. As I write this I can hear them outside my window calling in the cool of the evening rain. They can also often be seen trying to cross roads in the headlights of cars on these wet nights.

Breeding occurs after heavy rain with winter/spring being the peak as well as autumn. The female lays the eggs in the water attached to submerged vegetation with the egg sack looking like a jelly sack. Tadpoles can hatch in after about 4-6 days.

Frogs play an important part in the environment consuming bugs and insects but also have been utilised as a measure of environmental health. As they spend their whole life in and around water they are susceptible to increases in chemicals and other toxic substances. Therefore the decline in frogs in some environments may be an indication of something wrong in the ecosystem.

© Habitat Ecology 2013