Added 8 March 2013: added entry for H. intermedia.

Frogs and Toads of Europe: Tree Frogs

The Family Hylidae are found throughout the world, being absent only from most of sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and much of the Indian subcontinent. They belong to the order Neobatrachia, or "New Frogs".

Hylidae can be distinguished by their generally small shape, lack of parotid glands, broad and flat fingers (an adaptation for climbing), horizontal elliptical pupil, and smooth and glistening skin. They are often a grass-green colour, although some are blue, notably H. meridionalis. Only a few species of the genus Hyla are found in Europe.

NB Unlike the pages for the other Reptile and Amphibian families, where measurements were given in inches or feet, measurements for the families here are given in centimetres, owing to the generally small size of the subjects.

Either click on a frog or toad in the Quick Links section or scroll down for the whole table.

Hyla arborea, Common Tree Frog Hyla intermedia, Italian Treefrog Hyla meridionalis, Stripeless Treefrog
Hyla sarda, Tyrrhenian Treefrog    

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
H. arborea Common Treefrog N. Spain, N & C France east to Eurasia and up to Japan. 5 cm The Common Treefrog is a small and attractive anuran that is widely distributed from NW Africa across Eurasia as far as Japan. There are five European subspecies, plus others elsewhere. Unlike most anurans, these frogs call all the year round, although they do become noisier in the breeding season (April-May). Males can be distinguished by their darker throats, usually smoky grey or yellow-brown. As befits their name, adults live in trees, bushes or tall grass, having sticky pads at the ends of their digits to aid them in clinging. They are often found at some distance from water, except during the breeding season. Another interesting characteristic of treefrogs is their ability to change colour: a mechanism that, as with lizards, is more a function of temperature and mood than camouflage. The usual green can become grey, brown or yellow, and spots may even appear. The Common Treefrog needs warm and clean water to breed. Females lay up to 1,000 eggs in a walnut-sized cluster which then sits at the bottom of a stream or pool. The tadpoles are distinctive both by their wide fins and their golden colour. Development takes about two months. After metamorphosis the young dwell on the ground and only later in life begin to climb. Those Common Treefrogs found further north hibernate either singly or in small groups in winter shelters. Main diet is insects taken from plants, although small vertebrates may be taken by large specimens. The forelegs are used to help in swallowing.
H. intermedia Italian Treefrog Italy and Sicily 5cm Recognised as independent species solely on biochemical basis [Arnold]. Otherwise similar to the Common Treefrog.
H. meridionalis Stripeless Treefrog Mediterranean 5 cm Similar to above but lacks the dark markings on the sides of the Common Treefrog.
H. sarda Tyrrhenian Treefrog Mediterranean islands (Corsica, Elba, Capraia, Cavallo, Sardinia, Maddalena, Caprera, St Pietro: poss. also Spargi, St Stefano, Giardinelli, St Maria) 4-5cm Snout region is shorter than in the European Treefrog, and the skin on the back is more granular than in either of the other two European Hyla species. Coloration: variable: dorsally greenish, often with darker patches: some specimens greyish-black or greyish-green


I would like to acknowledge the crucial part played in this page by Lanka and Vit's Amphibians and Reptiles, from which accounts of the more obscure frogs were sometimes lifted almost verbatim. Any mistakes are my own! Data will be added or corrected in the course of my further reading.

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