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Animal Sounds

By Roger Williams Park Zoo, Education Department

Like learning to count or recite the alphabet, learning animal sounds is a fundamental part of childhood.  We often ask our little ones, “What sound does a cow make?” and then giggle with glee when “mooo” comes out of the mouth of babes.

If we ask children, and even adults, “What sound does a frog make?” most of us would expect a response of “ribbit, ribbit.” But what if the person you asked responded with the “wrraaaah” of a Fowler’s Toad or the “PREEP-preep, PREEP-preep” of a Spring Peeper? Would you be able to identify that sound?

You would if you signed up to be a FrogWatch volunteer!

The green frog pictured above has a breeding call that sounds like the plucking of a banjo.

In its third year, FrogWatch is a national program where everyday citizens help monitor frog and toad populations in their area. The Roger Williams Park Zoo is currently offering a free training session to interested individuals and families. This 2-hour course will help you identify Rhode Island species by the sound of their breeding call.

By monitoring which calls you hear, scientists can paint a picture of the distribution and abundance of local species. Additionally, in the same way that the sound of two people in a cafe is very different from the sound of a cafeteria full of people, the volume of the frog and toad calls helps scientists to estimate population sizes.

Trained volunteers dedicate about 3 minutes once or twice a week to listening to the types and volume of calls at nearby ponds or lakes. Then they log their data online in the FrogWatch USA database. It’s a great way for families to do something together, get outside, learn about animals and help their local environment.

Why monitor populations of our local amphibians? Frogs and toads are what we call indicator species. More sensitive to water conditions than other animals, a decline in frog and toad populations may be a sign of habitat loss, pollution or disease that could eventually affect us all. Additionally, local amphibians help control insect populations (just think, more frogs = fewer mosquitoes) and serve as a food source for other animals.

Currently Rhode Island has a healthy frog and toad population. FrogWatch is here to help make sure it stays that way.  And remember, this is something that anyone can do. If you think you’re not “outdoorsy” enough to learn frog and toad calls, just think of how many animal sounds a one-year old can master. It’s child’s play!

To attend a training session and become a FrogWatch Volunteer, contact Gerry DiChiara at gdichiara@rwpzoo.org or 401-785-3510 x358.

Upcoming Training Date:
– April 17 from 10am-12pm

For more information about animals in their natural habitat, visit Roger William’s Park Zoo located at 1000 Elmwood Avenue. Providence, RI.

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