The color of Blanchard's cricket frog is quite variable: gray, tan, greenish tan, or brown. The back may have a irregular green, yellow, orange, or brown stripe. There is always a dark triangle between the eyes, a series of light and dark bars on the upper jaw, and an irregular black or brown stripe along the inside of each thigh. The belly is white. The feet are strongly webbed, but the adhesive pads on fingers and toes are poorly developed. The call is a metallic “gick, gick, gick.”
Length: ⅝ to 1½ inches.
Habitat and Conservation
Commonly seen along the edges of ponds, streams, and rivers, especially on open areas of mud flats and gravel bars. Recent surveys indicate that this species is gone or nearly gone from Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and Indiana, but the cause of this decline has not been determined. Missouri populations need to be monitored.
A variety of small terrestrial insects are eaten.
Common, but populations bear monitoring due to serious declines in other states.
Taxonomically, Blanchard’s cricket frog has a slightly confusing history that is reflected in a flip-flopping official common name. (Herpetologists, like ornithologists, use official common names that correspond exactly with the scientific name. When the scientific name changes, so does the official common name.) In 1947, when it was first recognized as different from other cricket frogs, this animal was named Blanchard’s cricket frog, Acris blanchardi; it was considered a new species. Later, scientists decided it was only a subspecies of the northern cricket frog, Acris crepitans, and thus Blanchard’s cricket frog was relabeled Acris crepitans blanchardi. However, after that, scientists decided it was best to not consider it a separate subspecies at all, so Missouri's members of the species were designated as the northern frog, Acris crepitans, omitting the name "Blanchard’s" entirely. However, the most recent understanding has reasserted the distinction more forcefully, and our representatives are now again raised to the level of a distinct species: Acris blandchardi. Therefore, they are again called Blanchard’s cricket frog.
Therefore, don’t be surprised if you find this cricket frog listed, in older references, under any of the above names.
In Missouri, Blanchard’s cricket frogs are active from late March to early November. Breeding is from late April to mid-July in shallows of ponds and backwaters with an abundance of aquatic plants. Warm temperatures stimulate males to chorus; both calling and noncalling males can be successful breeders. A female may lay up to 400 eggs, either singly or in small packets of up to 7, which are attached to submerged vegetation. Eggs hatch in a few days, and tadpoles begin metamorphosis 5–10 weeks later.
The calls of this species resemble the sound of small pebbles being rapidly struck together. This provides music day and night to Missouri’s outdoors. Also, like other frogs, Blanchard’s cricket frogs prey on numerous insects that humans consider pests.
The naturalist Francis Harper named Blanchard’s cricket frog in 1947 to honor herpetologist Frank N. Blanchard (1888-1937). Blanchard taught zoology at the University of Michigan, formally described several new subspecies, and developed techniques for studying animals as they lived in nature. Blanchard’s cricket frog was one of several animals (species or subspecies) that were named to honor him.
Numerous predators eat the eggs, tadpoles, and adults of this species. Tadpoles have black-tipped tails that entice predators to aim for the tail tip as opposed to the tadpole’s head. Adults avoid predators by a series of quick, erratic hops.