No Solos in This Choir

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Calling out a sharp "krek-ek" in the evenings or stereotypically ribbit-ing the night away, the male Pacific Chorus Frog's vocalizations are usually aimed at attracting a mate. This is termed “advertisement calling”, and it peaks during the breeding season in spring. Dusk finds the frogs congregating in shallow bodies of water, literally screaming over one another for amorous attention—that's where the “chorus” part comes in.

Different situations call for slightly different calls. When a potential mate approaches, the suitor will switch to his “encounter call”, coaxing her closer. When rival croakers encroach on his territory, his call grows louder, shriller, effectively telling the others to back off, thanks. When another male has latched onto the singer, perhaps blinded by lust into mistaking him for a fertile female to mount, or perhaps simply in an attempt at asphyxiation, the affronted troubadour squeezes out his “release call”, the amphibian equivalent to “Ouch, buddy, cool it—I’m male. Find another frog.”

In spring the freshwater marshes of our refuges teem with breeding frogs, croaking and clamoring for attention. On warm nights, their amped-up chorusing seems very much to meld into a single voice, rising and falling in unison like the sleep-murmurings of the marsh itself.