Singing bullfrogs of summer


To the editor:

The Bronx is noted for many things. The Yankees and the Bronx Zoo certainly come to mind, and some still wrongly associate the Bronx with urban blight and violence.

But few would mention the Bronx and frogs in the same breath. Yet each June, I await the nighttime sound of croaking bullfrogs that drifts through my bedroom window from a small pond on what was once the Delafield Estate.

The Delafield Estate has a long history. Purchased in 1829 by Joseph Delafield, the original 259 acres extended from Broadway to the Hudson River.

Over time, all but 10 acres were sold off, and these were developed into a private community in the 1980s. Sadly, the original mansion burned down in 1991, but the pond remains.

Occasionally, some mallards take up temporary residence, and rarely a great blue heron shows up, probably to catch a frog.

Frogs face an uncertain future. Of the roughly 5,000 frog species worldwide, at least 200 are in decline or already extinct, and hundreds more are endangered. The greatest threat stems from the global spread of a deadly parasitic fungus fueled by the international pet trade. Habitat loss and climate change add to the decline.

However, bullfrogs — native to the eastern United States — are doing just fine. In fact, they are mostly resistant to the fungus and may have helped spread it to other parts of the country where they have been introduced.

Bullfrogs are the largest of all North American frogs. They are aggressive carnivores that can grow to eight inches and weigh more than a pound. They will eat insects, snails, fish, small water birds, and turtles — and even other frogs.

Here the breeding season starts in late spring and continues into summer. Mating goes on throughout the night and is a noisy, tumultuous affair. The deep-throated bellow of the male bullfrog is a mating call meant to defend a territory against rival males and attract receptive females. Fights often break out among dominant males.

Early June is a time for open windows that allow cooling breezes to waft through city apartments. Listening to the bellowing males as I drift off to sleep, I can only imagine what is going on in that little pond. But when I hear them, I know summer is here for sure.

Saul Scheinbach

Saul Scheinbach,