The Sharp Features of Hatchet-Faced Treefrogs

October 17, 2012
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Hatchet-faced treefrogs are extremely attractive greenish colored frogs with very short, sharply angular noses which give them their name — hatchet-faced. There are three species of this frog found in the Peruvian Amazon, and the greater hatchet-face and pygmy hatchet-face tend to be relatively abundant.

They are commonly heard and observed in the vegetation choked oxbow lakes where they are particular fond of water lettuce. In the early evening, loud clicking choruses of hatchet-faced treefrogs are a familiar sound in areas with floating vegetation. One thing to note, these minute frogs have a diurnal color and a nocturnal color. The nocturnal coloration is usually a uniform green whereas the daytime coloration is greenish with reddish spots, very similar to another common species, the polka dot frog. The greater hatchet-face treefrog is the largest of the three species with big females reaching one and three-quarters of an inch. Males are smaller than females. Hatchet-faced treefrogs have slightly webbed front toes and hind toes as well as a defined flap (calcars) which are present on the edge of the rear legs.greater hatched faced treefrog

A number of years ago while photographing a great hatchet-faced treefrog during one of IE’s Amazon River cruises, the frog leaped from its leafy perch and landed only a few feet from the edge of the deck. I quickly pursued the little amphibian but just as I got to the frog, it leaped off of the deck, which was about 30 feet above the water. Amazingly, the frog spread its legs and made what very much appeared to be a controlled descent. I was completely astonished by the frog’s ability to do this, especially when this species is known to occur virtually at or near water level in water lettuce rafts and thus “gliding” should not be something inherent in the behavior of this species.

This once again shows how little we know and also is an indicator that the little frogs do not read the text written about them in field guides. Oh the glories of nature and we have so much to learn…even from little green hatchet-faced treefrogs.


Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.