Home | Amphibians | Amphibian Breeding Migrations – Protecting a Spectacular Rite of Spring – Part 1

Amphibian Breeding Migrations – Protecting a Spectacular Rite of Spring – Part 1

Spring PeeperOther amphibian enthusiasts and I have long trudged about on cold, rainy spring nights in pursuit of one of North America’s most amazing amphibian events – the annual migrations of Tiger Salamanders, Spotted Salamanders, Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers and other early spring breeders.  Laughed at even by other nature enthusiasts for our odd passions (birders, for example, get to watch Yellow Warblers nesting in blossom-laden trees on warm May mornings!), we are now having our day – plummeting amphibian populations worldwide are causing folks to take notice…and action.

Amphibian Nights

Depending upon location, early March to mid-April is the height of the breeding season for many North American amphibians.  Terrestrial species such as Spotted and Tiger Salamanders, Wood and Gray Treefrogs, Spring Peepers and others leave their burrows or hibernation sites and journey in huge numbers to their breeding ponds.  The entire population of an area usually makes the trip at the same time (some, such as Spotted Salamanders, move in 2 waves, with males and female arriving on different nights).  Pickerel and Leopard Frogs arrive in smaller groups, then mass together at the pond.

Either way, it makes for an unforgettable evening when you hit the timing just right and can watch such an event!

Amazing Goings-On in Small Places

Spring Peeper TadpolesMost of the early spring breeders choose vernal (temporary) ponds in which to reproduce, as these cannot support fishes, the main enemy of eggs and larvae.  In many cases, the “ponds” are mere depressions that fill with rain for a few weeks, and then dry out.

One of my favorite sites was just such a pond on the edge of someone’s lawn in Westchester County, NY.  On one memorable night there I and a friend encountered Spring Peepers, Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders all reproducing at the same time…a short distance away another pool was alive with Marbled Salamander larvae – overwhelming!

Further Reading

For tips on getting involved, please see Volunteer Opportunities in Reptile and Amphibian Conservation.

A video of Spotted Salamanders in a breeding pond, along with the sounds of Spring Peepers, can be viewed here.

In Part II of this article we’ll take a look at some programs that are (finally!) being organized to help conserve the breeding places of native frogs and salamanders.  

About Frank Indiviglio

Read other posts by

Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
Scroll To Top