Hyla versicolor
Eastern Gray Treefrog
Subgenus: Dryophytes
family: Hylidae
subfamily: Hylinae
Taxonomic Notes: Duellman et al. (Zootaxa 2016) treated two major clades as genera; AmphibiaWeb treats these two clades as subgenera(Hyla in the Old World; Dryophytes in the New World and East Asia), thus stabilizing traditional taxonomy.

© 2006 Paul Crump (1 of 53)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
NatureServe Status Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.


Males 32-51 mm, females 33-60 mm (Wright and Wright 1949). In general, these frogs have warty skin and prominent adhesive pads on their fingers and toes (Johnson 1987). Their color can vary from green to light green-gray, gray, brown or dark brown (Johnson 1987). Usually, a large irregular star or spot appears on the back (Wright and Wright 1949) A large white spot is always present below each eye (Johnson 1987), although it is less visible and more of an olive color in females (Wright and Wright 1949). The belly is white (Johnson 1987). Males have pale flesh-colored vocal sacs (Wright and Wright 1949). In males, the chin is similar to the belly, with blackish spots (Wright and Wright 1949). In males, the legs are yellow or orange-yellow ventrally. (Johnson 1987), whereas in females, the back of the forelegs, hindlegs and sides are a pale olive gray (Wright and Wright 1949).

The tadpole is approximately 50 mm long, with a long tail. The coloration is scarlet or orange vermilion with black blotches around the edge of the crests (Wright and Wright 1949).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Canada, United States

U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia

Canadian province distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
Hyla versicolor can be found in Maine, southern Canada (west to Manitoba), Minnesota, South Dakota, southern Kansas, Oklahoma, the Gulf States and northern Florida. It can also be found in parts of Texas and Arkansas (Wright and Wright 1949).

In Canada, the frog occurs in southern Quebec, southern, central and northwestern Ontario and south-eastern and central Manitoba. There is also an isolated population in Fredericton, New Brunswick (Cook 1984).

This treefrog is found in small wood lots, in trees along prairie streams, in large tracks of mixed hardwood forest, and in the bottomland forests along rivers and swamps(Johnson 1987).Hyla versicolor has been observed living in the tree canopies as high as 20.5 meters above ground. It is speculated that the frog is utilizing cooler, wetter micro-habitats in the mid-canopy region of the forest.

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The orange-yellow coloration on the back of the frog's legs is considered a "flash" coloration - it is only seen when the frog leaps, when it exposes the underside of the leg, and then is covered when it resumes a sitting position. The sudden flash of contrasting color is thought to confuse predators (Cook 1984).

Breeding season begins at the end of April and ends in August, with breeding events typically concentrated during spring rains in May and June (Oldfield and Moriarty 1994). The female lays approximately 30 to 40 eggs of a brown and cream or yellow color in small scattered masses or packets on the surface of quiet pools. The eggs, measuring about 1.1-1.2 mm, are attached to the vegetation. Hatching occurs at 4-5 days (Wright and Wright 1949).

This frog is freeze-tolerant (Schmid 1982; Storey and Storey 1985).

Hyla versicolor has been found to be significantly less prone to infection by the trematode parasite Ribeiroia ondatrae than the sympatric species Bufo americanus, with metamorphic treefrogs harboring far less of a trematode parasite load and little associated mortality or deformities. H. versicolor may have higher immunity to this parasite (Johnson and Hartson 2009).

Trends and Threats
This species is classified as Least Concern. However, habitat preservation is still important. Hyla versicolor requires terrestrial habitat adjacent to breeding sites as well as the breeding wetlands, with a minimum suggested terrestrial habitat buffer of 60 m surrounding the main breeding pond (Johnson and Semlitsch 2003).

H. versicolor is one of the frog species which has been used to demonstrate the insufficiency of many of the pesticide studies conducted by pesticide manufacturers under current EPA regulations. H. versicolor tadpoles are susceptible to mortality from exposure to low concentrations of the pesticide carbaryl, with 10-60% of carbaryl-exposed tadpoles dying in laboratory experiments. This mortality rate shoots up to 60-90% if the tadpoles are simultaneously exposed to both stress and low concentrations of carbaryl, with stress induced experimentally by placing a caged predator in the water (Relyea and Mills 2001). Thus studies examining only low concentrations of pesticide without considering synergistic effects from other factors may be highly likely to underestimate the negative effects of the pesticide.

Hyla versicolor is the sibling species of Hyla chrysoscelis (Cope's Gray Treefrog). These two species are indistinguishable based on external morphology (Conant and Collins 1991). Distinction can be made on the basis of the calls, erythrocyte (red blood cell) size (Matson 1990), and chromosomal complement (Conant and Collins 1991). H. versicolor is a genetic tetraploid, whereas H. chrysoscelis is diploid. The precise distribution of each species is not well established (Conant and Collins 1991). In many areas, these two species live sympatrically (occuring together), and if they do, these species may interbreed (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Perhaps the most striking feature of this frog is its ability to change color to match its environment (metachrosis) - a process which usually requires about half an hour (Logier 1952).


Bartlett, R. D., and Bartlett, P. P. (1999). A Field Guide to Texas Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas.

Conant, R. and Collins, J. T. (1991). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern/Central North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Cook, F. R. (1984). Introduction to Canadian Amphibians and Reptiles. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.

Johnson, J. R., and Semlitsch, R. D. (2003). ''Defining core habitat of local populations of the Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) based on choice of oviposition sites.'' Oecologica, 137, 205-210.

Johnson, P. T. J., and Hartson, R. B. (2008). ''All hosts are not equal: explaining differential patterns of malformations in an amphibian community.'' Journal of Animal Ecology, 78, 191-201.

Johnson, T.R. (1977). The Amphibians of Missouri. University of Kansas Publications, Lawrence, KS.

Laughlin, M.M., Olson, E.R., Martin, J.G. (2017). Arboreal camera trapping expands Hyla versicolor complex (Hylidae) canopy use to new. Ecology, 98(8), 2017, pp. 2221–2223 DIO: 10.1002/ecy.1843

Logier, E. B. S. (1952). The Frogs, Toads and Salamanders of Eastern Canada. Clarke, Irwin & Company Ltd., Canada.

Matson, T. O. (1990). ''Erythrocyte size as a taxonomic character in the identification of Ohio Hyla chrysoscelis and H. versicolor.'' Herpetologica, 46, 457-462.

Oldfield, B. and Moriarty, J. J. (1994). Amphibians and Reptiles Native to Minnesota. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Relyea, R. A., and Mills, N. (2001). ''Predator-induced stress makes the pesticide carbaryl more deadly to grey treefrog tadpoles (Hyla versicolor) .'' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98, 2491-2496.

Schmid, W. D. (1982). ''Survival of frogs in low temperature.'' Science, 215, 697-698.

Wright, A. H. and Wright, A. A. (1949). Handbook of Frogs and Toads of the United States and Canada. Comstock Publishing Company, Inc., Ithaca, New York.

Written by Theresa Ly (tea_ly AT, UC Berkeley
First submitted 2001-05-09
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2017-11-28)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2017 Hyla versicolor: Eastern Gray Treefrog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 23, 2020.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2020. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 23 Sep 2020.

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